The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that 950 children in Nigeria could die daily from preventable causes over the next six months as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to weaken the health system.
UNICEF added that Nigeria could record about 6,800 more maternal deaths in just six months.
In a statement, UNICEF said, “the estimate is based on an analysis by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, newly published in The Lancet Global Health journal.”
“In a commentary to the Lancet report, UNICEF warns these disruptions could result in potentially devastating increases in maternal and child deaths.”
It added that the analysis gives three scenarios of the potential impact of COVID-19 in 118 low and middle-income countries, including Nigeria.
“In the worst-case scenario, the estimate is that an additional nearly 173,000 under-five deaths could occur in just six months, due to reductions in routine health service coverage levels – including routine vaccinations – and an increase in child wasting.”
The possible child death figures from UNICEF would be added to the 475,200 children who already die before their fifth birthday every six months in Nigeria. This may wipe out all the progress made in ending preventable under-five child mortality in Nigeria.
Reacting to this, UNICEF Nigeria’s Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, said: “We have made steady progress in reducing preventable child and maternal deaths in Nigeria over the last 20 years – and it would be devastating if that progress is lost or reversed – devastating for Nigerian families, communities and the country as a whole.”
“The under-five mortality rate has declined gradually over the last two decades in Nigeria – from 213 deaths per thousand in 1990 to 120 today. This is likely due to improved access and coverage of key life-saving interventions at primary health care and community levels and improved immunization rates.”
“But in countries with still overall weak health systems, like Nigeria, COVID-19 is causing disruptions in medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources. Visits to health care centres are declining due to lockdowns, curfews, and transport disruptions, and as communities remain fearful of infection.”
“The estimates in this new study show that if for whatever reason, routine health care is disrupted, the rise in child and maternal deaths will be devastating.”