As Covid-19 continues to weaken the health system, an estimated 4,000 children could die in Nepal in the next six months, UN agency warnsUNICEF says it fears that without urgent action, the number of children dying before their fifth birthdays is going to increase for the first time in decades.
An additional 670 children could lose their lives every month in Nepal as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to weaken the health system and disrupt routine services, the United Nations Children's Fund said on Wednesday.
Child mortality rate for Nepal as of 2018 is 32.2 per 1,000 live births.
Issuing a press statement on Wednesday, the UN agency said researchers estimate up to 4,000 children could die in Nepal in the next six months.
Similarly, around 300,000 children could die in India, 95,000 in Pakistan, 28,000 in Bangladesh and 13,000 in Afghanistan in the coming six months, according to the UN agency which said the estimation is done based on the research by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, newly published in The Lancet Global Health journal.
“We fear that the number of children dying before their fifth birthdays is going to increase for the first time in decades,” Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for South Asia, has been quoted in the statement as saying. “We must protect the mothers, the pregnant women and children in South Asia at all costs. 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.”
Like almost every other country in the world, Nepal too is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The country so far has reported 219 coronavirus cases, as of Wednesday. As many as 31 have recovered but no deaths due to the virus so far.
The UN agency warning, however, is a cause for concern, as the pandemic could put a roadblock to Nepal’s hard-earned progress and efforts to reduce child mortality rate over the decades.
UNICEF said in countries with already weak health systems, Covid-19 is causing disruptions in medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources.
“Visits to health care centres are declining due to lockdowns, curfews and transport disruptions and as communities remain fearful of infection,” it said.
Along with the increase in the child mortality, the assessment by UNICEF shows the pandemic is also taking a toll on the education of the children. It said nearly 1.3 billion students – over 72 per cent – are out of school as a result of nationwide school closures in 177 countries.