UN agencies warned Monday that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to
the deaths of an additional 51,000 under-fives in the Middle East and
North Africa by the end of the year.
The World Health Organisation and United Nations children’s agency
UNICEF said the disruption of essential health and nutrition services
risked “reversing progress (on) child survival in the region by nearly
“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 agencies warned.
“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
Such a number of extra deaths would represent an increase of almost 40
percent over pre-COVID-19 figures, they said in a joint statement issued
The agencies called for a “full and safe resumption” of essential
immunisation campaigns and nutrition services, following “strict
precautionary measures for infection prevention”.
The agencies cited overstretched health facilities with little personal
protective equipment, economic hardships and parents’ fears of
contracting the COVID-19 illness at health clinics among factors that
could cause a huge rise in child deaths.
“But we can avoid this scenario, allowing tens of thousands of children
to celebrate their fifth birthday surrounded by their families and
friends,” they said.
They urged authorities to work “to increase trust in public health
systems and promote appropriate care-seeking behaviours among families”.