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228,000 child deaths due to Covid-19 related disruptions in South Asia: UN

New Delhi, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Covid-19 related disruptions may have caused an estimated 228,000 additional child deaths in South Asia, where children and women are battling indirect but grievous social and health effects of the pandemic, said a United Nations report published Wednesday

The heavily populated and poverty-stricken South Asia region recorded 6,000 additional adolescent deaths from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and typhoid, according to the report by Unicef.

It cites examples of the more severe service disruptions, including an 80 percent drop in the number of young children treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Nepal and Bangladesh and a decline in childhood immunizations in Pakistan and India.

Unicef South Asia chief George Laryea-Adjei said the fall-off of the critical services had a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of the poorest sections in the region.

“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 in a statement.

The study focuses on South Asia’s six most populous countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and calls for interventions and strategies to minimize the indirect consequences of the pandemic.

It said there were 3.5 million additional unintended pregnancies due to the disease that also caused a 16 percent spike in maternal deaths in the region of nearly two billion people.

“Our estimates indicate that by the end of 2020, disruption on such a scale is likely to have contributed to more than 228,000 additional deaths among children under five years in (South Asia), compared to the previous year,” said the report, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The report noted that some 420 million South Asia children were affected by school closures since the beginning of the pandemic. An estimated nine million could drop out of school permanently.

“Around 50 percent of them will be girls,” it said.

The situation is likely to lead to an increase in child marriages given the cultural and social context of South Asia, the report said.

That in turn would result in an additional 400,000 adolescent pregnancies, an increase in the number of maternal and neonatal deaths, and in rates of child stunting.

“It will also impact negatively on cognitive capacity and skills, and the prospects of decent employment, as well as social and emotional well-being.”

The report has called for making essential health services for pregnant women, adolescents, and young infants a topmost priority.

Strengthening supply chains for delivering vaccines and other essential childhood medicines is also vital, it noted. EFE-EPA


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