The effect of COVID-19 on maternal newborn and child health (MNCH) services in Bangladesh, Nigeria and South Africa: call for a contextualised pandemic response in LMICs

Global response to COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently undermined the achievement of existing public health priorities and laregely overlooked local context. Recent evidence suggests that this will cause additional maternal and childhood mortality and morbidity especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Here we have explored the contextual factors influencing maternal, neonatal and children health (MNCH) care in Bangladesh, Nigeria and South Africa amidst the pandemic. Our findings suggest that between March and May 2020, there was a reduction in utilisation of basic essential MNCH services such as antenatal care, family planning and immunization due to: a) the implementation of lockdown which triggered fear of contracting the COVID-19 and deterred people from accessing basic MNCH care, and b) a shift of focus towards pandemic, causing the detriment to other health services, and c) resource constraints. Taken together these issues have resulted in compromised provision of basic general healthcare. Given the likelihood of recurrent waves of the pandemic globally, COVID-19 mitigation plans therefore should be integrated with standard care provision to enhance system resilience to cope with all health needs. This commentary suggests a four-point contextualised mitigation plan to safeguard MNCH care during the pandemic using the observed countries as exemplars for LMIC health system adaptations to maintain the trajectory of progress regarding sustainable development goals (SDGs).