Devastating coronavirus wave in Indonesia preys on children

Jakarta, Jul 29 (EFE).- More than 800 children have died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in Indonesia, the country with the highest infant mortality rate from coronavirus in the world, according to non-profit organization Save the Children.

The high rates are due to the poor living conditions of millions of minors and the devastating force of the current wave of infections.

“In Indonesia, the death toll from Covid-19 exceeds 80,000 and 1.1 percent are children, the highest rate in the world,” said Dino Satria, head of the humanitarian and resilience program of Save the Children in Indonesia.

The situation of 90 million Indonesian children, with mortality and infection rates four-fold those of the rest of the world, has seriously deteriorated in recent weeks as the fourth most populous country on the planet suffers the devastation of its worst Covid-19 wave to date.

With more than 40,000 daily cases and nearly 2,000 daily deaths in recent days, the archipelago has become one of the global epicenters of the pandemic, which has infected nearly 3.3 million people.

Funeral services in big cities are working non-stop, hospitals are collapsing, oxygen supplies are scarce and thousands are forced to suffer through the disease at home, often with fatal outcomes.

Children are no strangers to this drama, with more than 18,000 infections and 100 infant deaths a week, despite the recent decline in the capital, Jakarta, Aman Bhakti Pulungan, president of the Indonesian Pediatric Association, published Thursday on social media.

“Weekly infections of children with Covid-19 continue to increase,” he said.

The infant infection rate is close to 13 percent among the total population (compared to 2 percent worldwide), with 1.1 percent mortality among minors (compared to just 0.3 percent worldwide), according to Save the Children.

“More children in Indonesia suffer from malnutrition, which increases the risk of infection and death,” said Satria, adding that millions of Indonesian children skip routine vaccinations for other diseases, precarious health services and non-compliance with hygiene measures to avoid contagion.

These circumstances, according to the head of Save the Children, “puts them at greater risk of infection and death by adding malnutrition with underlying diseases.”

Data collected by the pediatric association shows the majority of child deaths from coronavirus also suffered from other ailments, such as obesity or tuberculosis.

“We are the second country with the highest number of tuberculosis patients in the world. Tuberculosis can be treated, if someone has symptoms or has been in contact with someone with tuberculosis, they must be examined and treated immediately,” Pulungan said.

Although other countries in the area, such as the Philippines, also have high rates of child poverty and malnutrition, none have experienced a wave of coronavirus such as the one in Indonesia.

Save the Children is also concerned that “many children lose at least one of their parents,” which increases their defenselessness against the disease, in addition to damaging their access to education and basic care.

Indonesia’s government said Wednesday that citizens shouldn’t be concerned about the availability of Covid-19 vaccine, according to state media reports, as the country deals with its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.

Spokeswoman Reisa Broto Asmoro said during a press conference that the country had procured 440 million vaccine doses through 2021, state agency Antara News reported.

“Yesterday (Jul. 27, 2021), Indonesia received 21 million doses of Sinovac vaccines in bulk form, which increased the country’s Covid-19 vaccine stock to more than 170 million doses in bulk form and finished goods,” she told the outlet.

Asmoro said more than 45 million people in the country of 270 million had received at least one of the two-dose vaccines, with at least 20 million receiving both jabs. Government data shows the current wave, which peaked on Jul. 15, is steadily decreasing, though deaths remain high, with a record 1,519 fatalities recorded Tuesday. EFE


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