KATHMANDU, May 13: As many as 4000 children may die in Nepal over the next six months due to the lockdown enforced to curb the spread of coronavirus, a UN agency has warned.
In a statement on Wednesday, the United Nations Children's Fund estimated that 440,000 children will affected in South Asia over the next six months if countries do not take an immediate action.
“An additional 2,400 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months in South Asia as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to weaken health systems and disrupt routine services across the region,” the UNICEF said.
The numbers are based on analysis by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, newly published in The Lancet Global Health journal.
"Nearly 95,000 children could die in Pakistan, 28,000 in Bangladesh, 13,000 in Afghanistan, 4,000 in Nepal," the UNICEF stated.
Based on the worst of three scenarios in 118 low- and middle-income countries globally, the analysis estimates that an additional 1.2 million under-five deaths could occur in just six months, due to reductions in routine health service coverage levels and an increase in child wasting, the UNICEF said.
UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Jean Gough said that the number of children dying before their fifth birthdays is going to increase for the first time in decades. “We must protect the mothers, the pregnant women and children in South Asia at all cost. Fighting the pandemic is critical but we cannot lose momentum on the decades of progress we have made in the region to reduce preventable maternal and child deaths,” he said.
“It is crucial that childbirth, child health and nutrition services remain available for families during the time of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Regional Health Adviser for South Asia Paul Rutter.
The health services in most South Asian countries is already in doldrums and may take a further hit due to the disruptions in medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources. In a commentary to the Lancet report, UNICEF warns these disruptions could result in potentially devastating increases in maternal and child deaths.