UN sounds alarm on South Asia child deaths due to COVID-19

NEW DELHI (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic may have indirectly contributed to around 228,000 additional child deaths in 2020, 11,000 maternal fatalities and 3.5 million unwanted pregnancies in South Asia, the United Nations (UN) said in a report yesterday.

The study commissioned by UNICEF blamed “drastic cuts in the availability and use of essential public health services” because of the pandemic across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, home to 1.8 billion people.

“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 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,” Laryea-Adjei said.

The estimates were based on actual observed changes and modelling exercises using data from before the pandemic in South Asia, where in 2019 alone 1.4 million children under five died, 63 per cent of them newborn babies.