By Abimbola Ogunnaike with agency report
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) have warned that an additional 51,000 children under the age of five could die in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of 2020 due to disruptions in primary health care caused by COVID-19.
The two agencies issued the warning in the Jordanian capital on Monday, calling for a “full and safe resumption” of essential immunization campaigns and nutrition services.
“While we do not have many cases of COVID-19 among children in the region, it is evident that the pandemic is affecting children’s health firsthand,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
They also stated the current disruption to essential health services and malnutrition among children risked “reversing progress (on) child survival in the region by nearly two decades”.
If such a number of extra deaths occur, it will be an increase of nearly 40 percent in comparison to pre-COVID figures, the agencies noted.
The agencies further urged health care systems in the region to adopt measures “to avoid this scenario,” saying they could allow “tens of thousands of children to celebrate their fifth birthday surrounded by family and friends.”
The UN health agencies cited a combination of factors that could contribute to this prediction.
Among the factors which could cause a huge rise in child deaths were overstretched health facilities with little personal protective equipment, economic hardships and parents’ fears of contracting the COVID-19 illness at health clinics.
The new virus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province late last year.
COVID-19 has so far infected more than 8,020,000 people globally and killed 436,000 others, according to a running count by worldometers.info.
Some 4 million people have also recovered from the illness.