The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned this week that about 6,000 young children could die every day from preventable causes during the next six months while attention is focussed on the coronavirus pandemic.
Hospital records show that children are relatively safe from the virus which attacks mainly people above 70 years. But UNCIEF says the additional deaths would largely occur in low- and middle-income countries with health systems that are already weak, and may be overwhelmed by the pandemic response.
“Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement. “We must not let mothers and children become collateral damage in the fight against the virus. And we must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths be lost.”
Health experts have warned that far more children could die because of the disruptions in health services, delays in vaccination campaigns and travel restrictions caused by lockdowns than by the coronavirus itself.
The epidemic has focussed the attention of governments in developing countries to COVID-19, forcing them to postpone public health measures and divert resources.