The United Nations is warning that the Covid-19 pandemic is reversing gains made in eliminating preventable deaths linked to other diseases.
Surveys by United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation show that the pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services.
The Levels and Trends in Child Mortality September 2020 report predicts that close to 23 million five to 24-year-olds and 48 million children under five are likely to die between 2020 and 2030.
Almost half of these under-five deaths will be newborns, the report says, as disruption to immunisation programmes from the Covid-19 pandemic leads to a spike in diseases like measles.
No doubt, strengthening health care systems, especially in the face of Covid-19, is essential to ending preventable deaths. We believe it is important that we recast our priorities so that Covid-19 doesn’t overshadow the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV and malaria. Lack of funding is a key obstacle in rolling out healthcare programmes. However, our investments in fighting every other disease should not decelerate because of the Covid challenge.
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Decision making by experts and the Ministry of Health should ensure no essential programme stalls. While Covid-19 has ravaged virtually every sector, fighting it shouldn’t mean we forget to combat other diseases that have ravaged us for decades. Importantly, it is key that the Ministry of Health learns from best practices in other jurisdictions. Above all, it’s important to widely consult given that the coronavirus is a global challenge that requires a global solution.