COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard won progress including that of child mortality, according to UNICEF and WHO.
Almost all the countries are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services like vaccinations, health checkups, prenatal and post-natal care at the time of Covid pandemic. Resource constraints and general uneasiness with using health services due to fear of coronavirus infection has led to this, the world organisations said.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that children, who are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they may become casualties of COVID-19. “Without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die,” Fore said.
The New Mortality estimates released by UNICEF and other organisations said that the number of under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point in 2019. It dropped to 5.2 million from 12.5 million in 1990.
As per a UNICEF survey across 77 countries, it was that found that almost 68 per cent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunization services. In addition, 63 per cent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 per cent in post-natal care.
Another survey by WHO that was based on responses from 105 countries said that 52 per cent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 per cent in services for management of malnutrition.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “now, we must not let the COVID-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations. Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.”
The UNICEF and WHO surveys said that the most common reason for health service disruptions included parents avoiding health centers for fear of infection, suspension or closure of services and facilities, transport restrictions, fewer healthcare workers due to diversions or fear of infection due to shortages and financial difficulties.
Afghanistan, Cameroon, Bolivia, Madagascar, Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Yemen, Libya and Sudan are among the hardest hit countries.
Johns Hopkins University model had showed that about 6,000 additional children would die per day due to disruptions due to coronavirus.
Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Muhammad Ali Pate said that COVID-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy. It is important to protect life saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality, Pate said.