51,000 kids might die by 2020, WHO-UNICEF

In North Africa, Mideast over poor assistance

15 June, 13:51

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JUNE 15 - Over 50,000 children under the age of five could die in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of 2020 due to the disruption in primary healthcare caused by COVID-19, according to a joint study released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization released on Sunday.

    ''The COVID-19 pandemic is putting the healthcare system in the region (Middle East and North Africa) under unprecedented strain'', said Ted Chaiban, regional director of UNICEF for the Middle East and North Africa and Ahmend Al-Mandhari, regional director of the WHO for the eastern Mediterranean region.

    ''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. An additional 51,000 children under the age of five might die in the region by the end of 2020 if the current disruption of essential health and nutrition services is protracted and malnutrition among children increases. If this happens, there will be an increase of nearly 40% in comparison to pre-COVID figures, reversing progress made in child survival in the region by nearly two decades.

    The baseline for under-five child mortality in six months is nearly 133,000 deaths, the organizations said. The additional under-five mortality is 51,000 which brings the total to nearly 184,000 deaths. The study concerns 10 countries including Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

    In order to avoid this scenario, UNICEF and the WHO asked for the ''full and safe resumption of vaccination campaigns and nutrition services, following strict precautionary measures for infection prevention, using personal protective equipment, avoiding overcrowding and adhering to physical spacing in health care facilities''.

    The agencies also urged to ''prioritize and facilitate access to primary care health services for every child, especially the most vulnerable through the availability f health personnel and supplies''.

    They also warned to ''equip the community outreach teams across the region with the minimum requirements for infection prevention and control (IPC) including the implementation of standard precautions and personal protective equipment''.

    They also cautioned to ''invest in effective public communication and community engagement initiatives to increase trust in public health systems and promote appropriate care-seeking behaviors among families''. (ANSAmed).

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