Preventable deaths in children under 5 were at the lowest number on record in 2019, according to a new report by United Nations agencies and the World Bank, released on Tuesday.
They found that there were just over 5 million preventable deaths last year, down from 12.5 million in 1990.
But the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to undermine those gains made in reducing deaths among children and young adolescents.
The report on mortality estimates comes from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Bank Group.
“We must not let the Covid-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Recent surveys by UNICEF and WHO have found the pandemic is disrupting child and maternal healthcare services worldwide, including prenatal and post-natal care, vaccinations and check-ups due to fewer resources and a fear of contracting Covid-19.
“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a news release.
“When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of COVID-19,” Fore said.
She added that millions of young children, especially newborns, could die "without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services."
Out of 77 countries surveyed by UNICEF over the summer, 68% reported disruptions in childhood checkups and vaccinations. A WHO survey of 105 countries also found 52% reported interruptions in medical services for sick kids and 51% reported disruptions in malnutrition programs.
These kinds of services are critical for preventing newborn and child deaths, WHO said.
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