Health

Infant mortality: Covid-19 can reverse progress

2019 recorded the lowest ever value in terms of infant mortality in children under the age of five. International organizations like UNICEF warn that Covid-19 could lose everything.

Infant mortality

 

Last year, the minimum mortality rate for children under five was historic. However, the Covid-19 pandemic, formally declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February last year, could reverse decades of progress in this direction.

The alert comes from organizations such as the WHO, the United Nations (UN), UNICEF, the World Bank and the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Action’s Population Division.

A report published and released by these organisations on Wednesday 2019 marked the lowest ever rate in the number of deaths in children under five – 5.2 million. Twenty-nine years earlier, in 1990, the number was recorded at 12.5 million.

Although there is apparently still no official count for 2020, there have been changes in the health service, which could lead to an increase in preventable child deaths.

Another additional UNICEF study conducted over the summer in 77 countries concluded that 68% of territories reported disturbances in children’s health services. For example, in immunization programs. 63% reported limitations in prenatal consultations and 59% in postnatal care.

The WHO report was based on responses from 105 countries and concluded that more than 50% suffered the same disorders of treatment and/or monitoring of sick and malnourished children.

The causes of this regression in health and eventually in infant mortality are largely based on parents’ fear of taking their children to health care for fear of being infected with the new coronavirus.

Also contributing to this situation are restrictions on transport, changes and limitations in operating time, scarcity of protective materials, such as gloves and masks, and the lack of qualified professionals.

Henrietta Fiore, UNICEF director, said in an official statement that “the global community has gone to great lengths to eliminate preventable infant deaths in order to let the covid-19 pandemic lead us astray.”

The official warns that urgent investment is needed to “restart health services and systems suffering from disruption” because “millions of children under the age of five and especially newborns are at risk”.

Before the pandemic, the most affected countries in terms of infant mortality were Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Yemen, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Central African Republic and Sudan. In seven of these countries, infant mortality is recorded, with 50 deaths from every 1000 births.

Covid-19 could further exacerbate the situation.

 

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