The Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Sri Lanka, Emma Brigham extended her gratitude and appreciation for Sri Lanka and its healthcare services for maintaining a strong, well developed primary healthcare system that can control and curtail an infectious disease outbreak; an outbreak that has been devastating and even the most comprehensive healthcare systems in the world have struggled.
The UNICEF representative stated this at the media briefing held today (05) at the Department of Government Information on Maternal Health services during Covid-19 pandemic situation.
The media briefing was jointly undertaken by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to clarify some assertions and media statements publicized by several media outlets regarding the maternal mortality in Sri Lanka during the pandemic situation based on a report published by SickKids Centre for Global Child Health and UNICEF.
Stating the clarifications and enlightening the public on the above issue, Emma Brigham elaborated that the main concerns of UNICEF specifically direct at mothers and children during Covid-19 and its impact on them. She said, “in 2020, UNICEF commissioned a modeling exercise to estimate some of the effects for mothers and children in South Asia and this modeling was carried out by SickKids Centre for Global Child Health. In March 2021, UNICEF released this report, and this showed areas of significant concern. Across the region of South Asia as a whole, the modeling exercise estimated that 228,000 more children had died in 2020 than in 2019 because of the effects of the pandemic and that 11000 more women died in 2020 than in 2019 for the same reason”.
She however stressed that these numbers are estimates based on modeling and the concept of Modeling has played an important role throughout the pandemic as it provides important insights, but it also has limitations. She further added that “when this work was reported in the media, these caveats were unfortunately not always reported. In Sri Lanka, the number that has caused particular concern was the estimate of how many mothers died in 2020. The model estimated the number of deaths as an additional 20 mothers between January 2020 and June 2021. Understandably, this caused a lot of concern within government, by the media and amongst the public.”
In addition, according to the UNICEF representative, since the release of the report, UNICEF has worked with the model developers to generate updated estimates for Sri Lanka. Those updated estimates look much more positive than the earlier estimates and the model now predicts only one additional maternal death between January 2020 and June 2021. She again reiterated that this is an estimate, nonetheless, this is good news for Sri Lanka.
She further extended her gratitude and appreciation to the Health Ministry and the frontline workers for their dedication in ensuring that frontline health services remain operational and safe in the midst of the epidemic. She also highlighted the importance of health care services for mothers and children remain fully functional and reach every woman and child including the vulnerable as the pandemic is not over yet.