Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Coronavirus Crisis – Challenges and Responses: maintaining essential health services for pregnant women and children while responding to COVID-19


As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread, countries face difficult decisions with respect to balancing the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain the delivery of essential health services.

Access to basic health services is of particular concern, especially for pregnant women and children, who need to be protected from risks directly related to the outbreak but also from those linked to preventable and treatable conditions. UNICEF’s Executive Director, Ms Henriette Fore, said that “we cannot save a child from COVID-19, and then lose many to pneumonia, measles, and cholera”.

In the first quarter of 2020, the government of China has implemented a series of strategies and taken specific efforts to maintain the availability and utilization of maternal and child health care services (e.g. antenatal care, newborn and child care, nutrition, mental health) through risk assessment, strategy development, innovative service delivery, and extensive health education. In order to ensure the safe operation of essential health services for women and children, China also put a lot of efforts on the protection of health providers, as well as, the nosocomial infection control. However, various challenges are also faced in the response process. China is interested to work with other countries to figure out solutions for these persisting gaps. 

The webinar was a joint initiative of UNICEF and the International Health Exchange and Cooperation Centre, National Health Commission of China, in cooperation with the socialprotection.org platform. It sought to share the experiences of China on how health systems delivered essential health services for pregnant women and children at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the challenges and responses. The webinar also provided the opportunity to explore further cooperation on COVID-19 between China and other countries under the overall South-South cooperation strategic plan of China. 



Dr. Wang AiLing, Director of the Maternal Health Department of the National Center for Women and Children's Health, China CDC

Dr. Xia Huimin, Director General of Guangzhou Maternal and Child Health Care Center

Dr. Cui Ying, Director of Health Communication Center, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Qiao Jie, Dean of the Third Hospital to Peking University 



Ms. Wang Jian, Deputy Director General of the International Health Exchange and Cooperation Centre, National Health Commission of China

Dr. Douglas Noble, UNICEF Deputy Representative to China


This was the nineteenth webinar of the “Social protection responses to COVID-19” webinar seriesThe series is a joint effort initiated by the IPC-IGGIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Australia Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) collaboration with the socialprotection.org platform, and in cooperation with partners from different organisations. Join our online community ''Social protection responses to COVID-19 [Task force]'' to learn more about the initiative and future webinars.