COVID-19 threatens to undo decades of hard-fought progress in reducing deaths of children under the age of five, UN agencies have warned, calling on countries to ensure vital health services for children and women do not falter amid the global crisis.
The number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019 – down to 5.2 million, from 12.5 million in 1990. However, there are fears the numbers could rise on back of COVID-induced disruptions to child and maternal health services, new estimates released on Wednesday, indicate.
Services experiencing disruptions include health checkups, vaccinations, and prenatal and post-natal care. Reasons include resource constraints and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting COVID-19, according to the UN agencies.
Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives, added the agencies.
The estimates, contained in the report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2020, were issued by UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the World Bank Group.
“The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday than any time in history is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General 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.”
SOURCE: UN News