Coronavirus (COVID-19) Editors' Choice World

Wed 09 September 2020:

The United Nations says disruptions caused to health services because of the pandemic could reverse decades of progress in reducing child mortality and put millions of lives at risk worldwide.

New mortality estimates published by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group show deaths of under-fives fell to their lowest level on record in 2019. 

Some 5.2 million children died before reaching age 5 in 2019, mostly of preventable causes, according to the report.

It marks a significant drop from the 12.5 million child deaths in 1990, when UNICEF’s reporting began.

Prevention and treatment of conditions including birth complications, pneumonia and malaria, as well as vaccines, played a key role in saving millions of lives in the last three decades.

More than half of the child fatalities in 2019 were in sub-Saharan Africa, while central and southern Asia carried 28 per cent of that burden.

This year, the coronavirus outbreak caused major disruptions to health services, putting millions more lives at stake, UNICEF said.

“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the Covid-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a press release.

“Without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.”

More than two thirds of 77 countries surveyed by UNICEF over the summer reported some disruption in immunization services and health checks for children.

This was mainly due to parents avoiding clinics for fear of infection, facilities being closed and fewer health care workers being available.

Afghanistan, Bolivia, Libya, Sudan and Pakistan were among the hardest hit countries.

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