The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation yesterday warned that more than 50,000 children under the age of five could die this year in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) due to the disruption in the health systems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
UNICEF’s Regional Director in MENA, Ted Chaiban, and the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Manzari, said in a joint statement that “health systems in the region are under unprecedented pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“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,” the statement said, explaining that an additional 51,000 children under the age of five might die in the region by the end of 2020 in the case of rising malnutrition and a protracted lack of access to vaccinations and treatment for childhood diseases.
They said they expect the number of child deaths to increase by 40 per cent compared to the figures recorded before the coronavirus crisis.
The organisations said health care workers are focusing on responding to the pandemic exacerbating the situation, while lockdowns in place to stop the spread of the disease are hindering access to medical care.