Unicef calls for $164 million to help save lives in virus-hit South Asia

New Delhi, May 21 (EFE).- Unicef on Friday sought $164 million in donations for critical health supplies to help save lives in pandemic-hit South Asia, the most densely populated region on the planet and home to one-quarter of the world’s population.

The region, comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, is home to almost 2 billion people and accounts for half of the known new infections globally.

More than three new Covid-19 infections are recorded every second in the region.

Mortality is rising sharply, with more than three people dying every minute due to Covid-19, the United Nations children agency said.

“The sheer scale and speed of this new surge of Covid-19 is outstripping the countries’ abilities to provide life-saving treatment,” George Laryea-Adjei, Unicef Regional Director for South Asia, said in a statement.

“Hospitals are overwhelmed, there is an acute lack of oxygen and other critical medical supplies, and there is a real risk of fragile health systems collapsing.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, an estimated 228,000 children and 11,000 mothers across South Asia died due to severe disruptions in essential health services.

“We are now looking at a surge that is four times the size of the first. We need to do everything within our power to prevent and treat Covid-19, while keeping the critical health care services that children and mothers so heavily depend on running,” Laryea-Adjei said.

On May 18, India, the second-most populous country, recorded 4,529 fatalities, the highest number of daily deaths in the history of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neighboring Nepal has experienced case positivity rates as high as 47 percent. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are recording new highs in Covid-19 cases and deaths daily.

Hospitals in the capital of the Maldives are reaching capacity.

Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bhutan could all face similar devastating surges, the UN agency said.

In almost all countries in the region, except the Maldives and Bhutan, fewer than one in ten people have been vaccinated against Covid-19, it said.

The funding requirement included $32 million for oxygen equipment, including on-site oxygen-generating plants for hospitals, portable oxygen concentrators, and cylinders.

The agency said it needed $40 million for medical and diagnostic equipment, including RT-PCR and RNA extraction machines.

Some $60 million are needed for masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, visors, and other personal protective equipment to keep health and frontline workers safe.

“The critical health supplies will not only save lives, but also help build stronger health-care systems across South Asia ahead of potential future waves of the pandemic,” the agency said.

“This deadly surge in South Asia threatens to reverse global gains against the Covid-19 pandemic and roll back hard-earned progress on child and maternal survival,” Laryea-Adjei said.

“We’re asking for support to help make sure this doesn’t happen.” EFE


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