New UN report: Women’s and children’s health backsliding since 2020

Since 2020 women’s and children’s health has suffered globally from the converging impacts of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, according to a new United Nations report for which Countdown is a contributing partner.

“Almost three years on from the onset of COVID-19, the pandemic’s longterm impact on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents is becoming evident: their chances for healthy and productive lives have declined sharply,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.  “As the world emerges from the pandemic, protecting and promoting the health of women, children and young people is essential for supporting and sustaining the global recovery.”

Data presented in the report show a critical regression across nearly all major measures of childhood wellbeing, and many key indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals. Since the last Every Woman Every Child Progress Report published in 2020, food insecurity, hunger, child marriage, risks from intimate partner violence, and adolescent depression and anxiety have all increased.


“At the core of our unkept promise is the failure to address the gaping inequities at the root of global crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to conflicts and the climate emergency. The report describes the impacts of these crises on women, children and adolescents, from maternal mortality to education losses to severe malnutrition,” said Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.

The report, titled Protect the Promise, is published by global partners, including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) and Countdown to 2030, as a bi-annual summary of progress in response to the UN Secretary General’s Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The most comprehensive synthesis of evidence on the current state of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, it updates the last Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy Progress Report published in 2020.

The report calls upon the global community to address this damaging trajectory and protect the promises made to women, children, and adolescents in the SDGs. In particular, it advocates for countries to continue investing in health services, to address all crises and food insecurity, and empower women and young people around the world.

“The impacts of COVID-19, conflicts, and climate crises have raised the stakes for vulnerable communities, revealing the weaknesses and inequities in health care systems and reversing hard-won progress for women, children, and adolescents – but we are not powerless to change this,” said UNICEF Executive Catherine Russell. “By investing in resilient, inclusive primary health care systems, jumpstarting routine immunization programs, and strengthening the health workforce, we can make sure that every woman and every child can access the care they need to survive and thrive.”