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COVID-19: the maternal killer we need to talk about

10 November 2020

At Equalize Health (formerly D-Rev) we are strengthening our focus on maternal health solutions.

In recent years, some progress has been made towards the SDG goal to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births by 2030, yet there is still much more to be done.

A devastating 295,000 mothers die globally every year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. An estimated 94-99% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. To put this in perspective, the WHO contextualizes that if you are a woman of childbearing age, your chances of dying from a maternal cause are 1 in 5400 if you live in a high income country versus 1 in 45 for those in low-income countries. And now, Covid-19 could reverse any progress that has been made.

The truly exasperating yet optimistic paradox in the deaths of these mothers is that the vast majority of them can be prevented, since the main causes of maternal deaths include severe bleeding, infections, hypertension (preeclampsia), embolism, complications from delivery, unsafe abortions, and other indirect causes that can be proactively prepared for.

COVID-19, however, has unveiled itself as a fresh obstacle in preventing maternal deaths.

The virus is disrupting healthcare systems, especially in low-income and middle-income countries, by:

  1. Creating life-threatening resource constraints

  2. Diverting healthcare personnel’s attention away critical basic services

  3. Deterring patients from accessing healthcare facilities

  4. Limiting transportation options

  5. Forcing facilities to temporarily or permanently close

  6. Causing crippling financial struggles

  7. Unleashing a general distrust or fear in healthcare systems

Researchers estimate that these disturbances from COVID-19 will cause maternal deaths to sky-rocket, adding 56,700 more maternal deaths every six months on top of the nearly three hundred thousand annual maternal deaths already occurring.

If we do not act now, decades of progress could be reversed. This is why we are committed to focusing on maternal health and making an impact right now.

We know COVID-19 especially preys on the most vulnerable - those who are already suffering from other endemic health issues, including HIV, diabetes, tuberculosis, malaria, and malnutrition - which could further exacerbate the challenge. COVID-19 is not only increasing the number of home births because people are afraid to go into hospitals, but the virus is also compromising the remaining hospital deliveries as well.

At Equalize Health, we will build off our previous success in designing and implementing innovative technologies such as Brilliance Pro, to evaluate solutions for maternal, newborn, and children’s health. We have identified large gaps in maternal health and increased our resources to successfully understand the issues at hand.

As we focus on mothers during this critical time, we will uphold our commitment to creating technology for everyone, so that no matter where an expectant mother lives, she has access to world-class medical treatment.