India, Pakistan also among 10 countries where additional child deaths feared
Deaths from preventable disease in children under five could rise by almost 45% over the next six months as the Covid-19 pandemic diverts scarce health resources in developing countries including Bangladesh, a UN report said on Tuesday.
The study found that the 10 countries that could have the largest number of additional child deaths were Bangladesh, Brazil, DR Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Tanzania.
The report, conducted by eight specialists from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, modelled three scenarios in which the coverage of essential maternal and child health interventions is reduced by 9.8% to 51.9% and the prevalence of wasting is increased by 10% to 50%.
According to report, the least severe scenario, where coverage reductions of 9.8%–18.5% and wasting increase of 10%, over 6 months would result in 2,713 additional child deaths and 75 additional maternal deaths in Bangladesh.
In most severe scenario, where coverage reductions of 39.3–51.9% and wasting increase of 50%, over 6 months would result in 56,235 additional child deaths and 1,523 additional maternal deaths in the country.
Across the three scenarios, the reduced coverage of four childbirth interventions - parenteral administration of uterotonics, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants, and clean birth environments - would account for approximately 60% of additional maternal deaths.
The increase in wasting prevalence would account for 18%–23% of additional child deaths and reduced coverage of antibiotics for pneumonia and neonatal sepsis and of oral rehydration solution for diarrhoea would together account for around 41% of additional child deaths.
Poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America could see an additional 1.2 million infants die over the period, according to the study published by The Lancet Global Health.
About 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in six months, beyond the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same 118 countries, a rise of about 40%.
The findings were based on a computer model that calculated the impact of a reduction in family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, child delivery, vaccinations and preventive and curative services.
"Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades," said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.
"We must not let mothers and children become collateral damage in the fight against the virus. And we must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths be lost."
The greatest number of additional child deaths would come from under nourishment, and a reduction in treatment of neonatal sepsis and pneumonia.
Unicef said it was especially alarmed at the knock-on effects of the pandemic.
This included tens of million of children missing out on measles vaccinations, and some 370 million children who normally rely on school meals having to look for other sources of food.
Unicef said it was launching a new global campaign called "#Reimagine" to prevent the pandemic becoming a lasting crisis for children.
The organization is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to respond.