An additional 51,000 children under the age of five might die in North Africa and the Middle East by the end of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization.
This concerning projection was made in a joint statement on 14 June by Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, and Dr. Ahmend Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
“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,” read the statement.
UNICEF and the WHO warned that if the current disruption to essential health and nutrition services is protracted and malnutrition among children increases, an estimated 51,000 children may die. If this happens, notes the statement, “it will be an increase of nearly 40 percent in comparison to pre-COVID figures.”
UNICEF/WHO urges health care systems in the region to adopt measures “to avoid this scenario, allowing tens of thousands of children to celebrate their fifth birthday surrounded by family and friends.”
The statement proposes the full and safe resumption of vaccination campaigns and nutritional services following prescribed precautionary measures. It also encourages prioritizing and facilitating access to primary health care services for every child.
In addition, the statement recommends equipping community outreach teams across the region with the minimum requirement for infection prevention and control. It also suggests investing ineffective public communication and community engagement initiatives to increase trust in public health care systems. Vatican News