A total of 6,000 children around the world could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months due to the impact of Covid-19 on routine health services, the UN has warned.
Global disruption of essential maternal and child health interventions such as immunisation, family planning, birth and postnatal care could lead to an additional 1.2 million deaths of under-fives in just six months, according to a report published in the Lancet Global Health Journal.
This will eventually be registered in Kenya in future. Dr Mercy Onsando, the CEO of Hennet – an umbrella organisation for civil society organisations in the health sector - said the Covid-19 crisis had negatively impacted immunisation access for those in need with the possibility of children missing timely vaccination or not receiving it at all.
Dr Onsando said this will result in an increase in the number of unvaccinated children, mainly among underserved populations.
She asked the government to increase funding for immunisation to save lives, adding that the programme had an inadequate budget. The annual requirements for vaccines and linked supplies have a projected cost of Sh6.5 billion, yet the government gives about half that amount, she said.
“We urge policy makers to prioritise immunisation through allocation of sufficient funds. Through immunisation, we will prevent diseases, reduce mortality and avoid over-stretching our health systems as people seek treatment," she said.
Another major setback for Kenya in vaccination has been the move by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to suspended polio immunisation campaigns. The programme supports polio vaccination in East Africa and the rest of the world.
They have since diverted their resources to “prioritise support for the response to Covid-19”.
The report analysis by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health warned that the projected figure could reverse nearly a decade of progress on ending preventable child deaths.
The UN children’s agency estimates that these potential child deaths will be in addition to the 2.5 million who already die before their fifth birthday every six months.
The research underlined just how disruptive to medical supply chains coronavirus had been in countries with weak health systems. Visits to healthcare centres are declining due to lockdowns, curfews and transport disruptions, and fear of infection, said Unicef.
The analysis, revealed that some 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in just six months, in addition to the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same countries over a six-month period.
“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 Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“The greatest number of additional child deaths will be due to an increase in wasting prevalence among children, which includes the potential impact beyond the health system, and reduction in treatment of neonatal sepsis and pneumonia,” she said.