About 6,000 children around the world could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months due to the impact of Covid-19, a UN agency has warned.
Global disruption of essential maternal and child health interventions - such as family planning, birth and postnatal care, and vaccinations – could lead to an additional 1.2 million deaths of under-fives in just six months. This is according to analysis by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Lancet Global Health Journal.
“Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
The analysis, which looks at three modelled scenarios in 118 low and middle-income countries, warns that even in the most optimistic scenario, where health services are reduced by about 15 per cent, there would be a 9.8 per cent increase in under-five child deaths (an estimated 1,400 a day) and a jump of 8.3 per cent in maternal deaths.
This is due to reduction in routine health service coverage levels and an increase in child wasting.
Covid 19 Time Series
“The Covid-19 crisis is a child rights crisis. We need an immediate, medium and long-term response that not only addresses the challenges created by the pandemic and its secondary impacts on children, but also outlines a clear version for building back a better world when the crisis finally recedes,” said Fore.
These potential child deaths will be in addition to the 2.5 million children who already die before their 5th birthday every six months in the 118 countries.
- READ MORE
- 1. Covid-19 cases to shoot up in March
- 2. 139 test Covid-19 positive as cases near 100,000
- 3. Covid-19: Three dead as 186 test positive
- 4. Africa's COVID-19 case fatality rate surpasses global level
This projected figure threatens to reverse nearly a decade of progress on ending preventable child deaths, said Unicef, on Wednesday.
Some 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in just six months, in addition to the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same countries over a six-month period.
“We must not let mothers and children become collateral damage in the fight against the virus. And we must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths be lost,” said Fore.
In countries with already weak health systems, Covid-19 is causing disruptions in medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources. Visits to health care centers are declining due to lockdowns, curfews and transport disruptions, and as communities remain fearful of infection.
Unicef warns these disruptions could result in potentially devastating increases in maternal and child deaths.
“The increase in wasting prevalence would account for 18 to 23 per cent of additional child deaths and reduced coverage of antibiotics for pneumonia and neonatal sepsis and of oral re-hydration solution for diarrhoea would together account for around 41 per cent of additional child deaths,” reads the report.
In the worst-case scenario, where health interventions are reduced by around 45 per cent, there could be as much as a 44.7 per cent increase in under-five child deaths.