Virus impact could kill over 50000 children in MENA

Henrietta Strickland
June 16, 2020

"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 agencies warned in a joint statement issued in the Jordanian capital Amman.

The spread of COVID-19 is overwhelming already fragile healthcare systems, and the demand for services is high while resources are limited. UNICEF officials warn that mortality rates for MENA children under the age of five could increase by 40% by the end of 2020.

According to UNICEF statistics, West and Central Africa, home to only 11% of the world's children, account for 31% of global under-five deaths, 20% of global stunting, and 33% of out-of-school children. Nations across the region have imposed lockdowns or curfews to curb infections, making it harder for citizens to leave their houses. Many worry about coming into contact with an infected patient when visiting the hospital for unrelated reasons, leaving children and mothers especially vulnerable to missing out on vital care.

The UN has warned that 51,000 children could die across the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the coronavirus pandemic by the end 0f 2020.

Malnutrition is rising, as 369 million children across 143 countries are not getting the school meals they would normally rely on for a source of daily nutrition, he said.

The impact of the pandemic on children included lower access to food and health services, shortages of vaccines and other essential drugs as transportation links shut down, as well as increased risk of child violence, adolescent pregnancies and school drop-outs by girls, etc.

In order to avoid this scenario, UNICEF and the WHO asked for the "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".

They also cautioned to "invest in effective public communication and community engagement initiatives to increase trust in public health systems and promote appropriate care-seeking behaviors among families".

"In some countries, there may be temporary interruptions of routine services, which is why we are asking that governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunisation activities once the Covid-19 pandemic is under control", she said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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