Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths – UNICEF

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Countries worldwide are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services, and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting COVID-19 as the pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress.

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. 

“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. 

“When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of COVID-19. Without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.”

Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birthweight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “It is essential to protect life-saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality. We will continue to work with governments and partners to reinforce healthcare systems to ensure mothers and children get the services they need.”

“The new report demonstrates the ongoing progress worldwide in reducing child mortality,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “While the report highlights the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on interventions that are critical for children’s health, it also draws attention to the need to redress the vast inequities in a child’s prospects for survival and good health.”