Kathmandu, Mar. 22: Drastic cuts in the availability and use of essential public health services across South Asia due to COVID-19 may have contributed to an estimated 228,000 additional child deaths in 2020, according to a new United Nations report.
Around 11,000 additional maternal deaths are also expected. According to the report, commissioned by UNICEF and supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), cites examples of the more severe service disruptions.
They include an 80 per cent drop in the number of young children treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Nepal and Bangladesh, and a sharp drop in childhood immunisations in Pakistan and India.
“The fall-off of these critical services has had a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of the poorest families,” said UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia George Laryea-Adjei. “It is absolutely vital that these services are fully restored for children and mothers who are in desperate need of them, and that everything possible is done to ensure that people feel safe to use them.”
The report calls for making essential health services for pregnant women, adolescents and young infants a topmost priority. Strengthening supply chains for the delivery of vaccines and other essential childhood medicines is also vital.
“Maintaining essential health services is an important pillar of WHO’s COVID-19 response strategy,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of the WHO South-East Asia Region.
“Countries in the region have been focusing efforts on continuation and restoration of essential services, as disruption would only increase the risk of deaths from preventable causes.”
– The Rising Nepal