Deaths from preventable disease in children under five could rise by almost 45 per cent over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic diverts scarce health resources in developing countries, a UN report said Tuesday (May 12). This presents a very grim picture for child mortality rate.
Poorer nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America could see an additional 1.2 million infants die over the period, according to the study published by The Lancet Global Health.
About 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in six months, beyond the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same 118 countries, a rise of about 40 per cent.
The findings were based on a computer model that calculated the impact of a reduction in family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, child delivery, vaccinations and preventive and curative services.
Deaths from preventable disease in children under five could rise by almost 45 percent over the next six months as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic diverts scarce health resources in developing countries, a UN report said Tuesday. https://t.co/x6fWYcawfF
— The Manila Times (@TheManilaTimes) May 13, 2020
“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.
“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.”
The greatest number of additional child deaths would come from undernourishment, and a reduction in treatment of neonatal sepsis and pneumonia.
The study found that the 10 countries that could have the largest number of additional child deaths were Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania.
UNICEF said it was especially alarmed at the knock-on effects of the pandemic.
This included tens of millions of children missing out on measles vaccinations, and some 370 million children who normally rely on school meals having to look for other sources of food.
UNICEF said it was launching a new global campaign called “#Reimagine” to prevent the pandemic becoming a lasting crisis for children.
The organisation is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to respond.
Child mortality is preventable
According to a UN report, substantial global progress has been made in reducing child deaths since 1990. The total number of under-5 deaths worldwide has declined from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.3 million in 2018.
On average, 15 000 children under-5 die each day compared with 34 000 in 1990. Since 1990, the global under-5 mortality rate has dropped by 59%, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 39 in 2018.
This is equivalent to 1 in 11 children dying before reaching age 5 in 1990, compared to 1 in 26 in 2018.
Although the world as a whole has been accelerating progress in reducing the under-5 mortality rate, disparities exist in under-5 mortality across regions and countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest under-5 mortality rate in the world, with 1 child in 13 dying before his or her fifth birthday, 15 times higher than in high income countries.
Two regions, Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia, account for more than 80 per cent of the 5.3 million under-five deaths in 2018, while they only account for 52 per cent of the global under-five population.
Half of all under-five deaths in 2018 occurred in just five countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. India and Nigeria alone account for about a third.
More than half of under-5 child deaths are due to diseases that are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions. Strengthening health systems to provide such interventions to all children will save many young lives.
Malnourished children, particularly those with severe acute malnutrition, have a higher risk of death from common childhood illness such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Nutrition-related factors contribute to about 45% of deaths in children under-5 years of age.
Online International Media with additional input from GVS News Desk