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Coronavirus outbreaks add to risk of childbirth death, says WHO

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A baby is born in the poor surburb of Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.
A baby is born in the poor surburb of Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
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The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has given a warning about the "heightened risk" of women dying in childbirth around the world, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a WHO briefing in Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that amid an "escalating pandemic globally", there was particular concern for low and middle-income families, especially women and children.

The fear is that factors other than COVID-19 might have a worse impact on such communities around the world than the virus itself, he said.

He added that women may be at risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth if health services are overwhelmed by the pandemic, and the WHO has guidelines for how to maintain them.

Tedros said the UN health agency recently investigated the risk of mothers spreading the coronavirus to their newborns and concluded that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of transmitting the virus, including among women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

He also expressed concern at the effect of school closures on young people, many of whom may suffer from the likes of depression, anxiety and online abuse. In many countries the main mental health services are to be found at school, he said.

The WHO director-general renewed an appeal for "global solidarity" in dealing with the pandemic, calling for an end to division. Countries could not fight the virus in isolation, Tedros added.