The G20 must act immediately to protect health of women, children, and adolescents worldwide

The "four Cs": covid-19, conflict, climate change, and the cost-of-living problem have been important causes of these bad results in recent years.


New Delhi : Every year, almost two million avoidable fatalities occur among mothers, babies, children, and adolescents across all G20 nations, including stillbirths. Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH), a global alliance hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), highlight why investing in women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health is critical to global economic growth in an opinion piece published in the BMJ,.

The “four Cs”: covid-19, conflict, climate change, and the cost-of-living problem have been important causes of these bad results in recent years. These variables have combined to cause significant harm to the health and well-being of women, children, and adolescents. Systemic discrimination, as well as a rise in severe weather occurrences, food insecurity, and poverty, are key contributors to the lack of development in the health of women, children, and adolescents. Climate change was already responsible for more than 150 000 fatalities globally in 2000, as well as a growing global illness burden, 88% of which fell on children. According to estimates, 80% of those displaced by the climate catastrophe are women, owing mostly to economic and social inequities between genders.

Such disparities, environmental degradation, and loss of human life and capital are very upsetting. As a consequence, women suffer, aggravating the “feminisation of poverty.” Women continue to earn less than males over the globe, even when education levels are comparable. The G20 nations are home to two-thirds of the world’s population, and their combined actions have worldwide ramifications.

The G20 must act immediately to enhance the health of women, children, and adolescents and to address unnecessary deaths. The G20 presidency is presently held by India, which is dedicated to attaining universal health coverage and enhancing healthcare service delivery internationally. As part of a digital plan released in 2021, India, for example, has suggested many projects for digital health solutions. These digital technologies allowed the registration of one billion individuals in order to track vaccination coverage, as well as the delivery of nearly 1.78 billion doses of the covid-19 vaccine. Given the continued effects of the climate catastrophe on public health, India has also suggested measures on the climate-health nexus, as well as attempts to improve pandemic preparation and response. It is critical that these programmes be gender and age appropriate, for example, by promoting women-centric digital health services.

Cooperation across borders is essential for exchanging best practises and solving common difficulties. Effective adaptation to climate change, for example, requires both systemic methods and nations supporting each other’s efforts to raise financial resources and enhance technology skills via South-South and North-South cooperation. G20 nations must also take more concrete steps to address the health and well-being concerns that women, children, and adolescents confront.

First and foremost, G20 nations must prioritise additional cross-cutting finance to strengthen health systems, improve access to vital health services, and address socioeconomic determinants of health such as poverty and gender inequality. Investing in physical and digital infrastructure with a gender perspective has the potential to lessen the burden of unpaid labour, enhance welfare, generate employment, raise labour force participation, close the digital gender gap, boost productivity, and promote economic development.

Second, many nations are trying to sustain pre-pandemic health-spending levels. This has a global impact on the health of mothers, children, and adolescents. Global efforts are needed to aid nations in strengthening their health systems by drawing greater development assistance for health and finding long-term solutions to debt relief. The G20 must push for this.

Third, we need sophisticated data systems to properly monitor and execute policies and initiatives. Given that the G20 nations account for over 85% of global GDP, two-thirds of the world population, and wield enormous political power, they are ideally positioned to drive research and development of new and better health technologies and vaccines. When investing in these areas and making choices, it is critical to include women, children, and adolescents in meaningful ways.

Fourth, investing in early childhood development is critical, including family-friendly policies and comprehensive social support. Such investments may improve cognitive capital — the whole collection of intellectual talents that defines human capacities, principally cultivated prenatally and in early infancy — leading to equitable economic development. To combat teenage unemployment throughout the G20, adolescents’ skills, such as digital literacy, must be developed, as well as technology-driven and environmentally responsible development.

The G20 must highlight women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health and well-being by making it a permanent fixture on its action agenda. This need focused, increased, and sustained funding, as well as increased global coordination and solidarity to ensure that no woman, child, adolescent, or country falls behind.

Women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health and well-being are critical for global economic development. This cannot be maximised in the absence of strong G20 leadership.