If the disruption of basic health and nutrition services continues, “more than 51,000 children under the age of five could die in the region by the end of 2020,” warned the United Nations Fund Childhood ( Unicef ) and the World Health Organization ( WHO) in a joint statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic is putting health systems under unprecedented stress in the region. Primary health care services have either decreased or been interrupted in several countries.
“While we do not have many cases of COVID-19 among children in the region, it is evident that the pandemic is affecting children’s health firsthand,” the statement read. And if this scenario of 51,000 deaths occurs, it would be an increase of almost 40% compared to the figures before Covid-19. This would reverse the progress made in child survival in the region by almost two decades, as we read in the press release.
Unicef and WHO therefore call for a “full and safe resumption of vaccination campaigns and nutrition services, following strict precautionary measures for infection prevention, using personal protective equipment, avoiding overcrowding and adhering to physical spacing in health care facilities”, but also to “Prioritize and facilitate access to primary health care services for every child especially the most vulnerable through the availability of health personnel and supplies”. And to conclude: ” We can avoid this scenario, allowing tens of thousands of children to celebrate their fifth birthday surrounded by their families and friends. “.