COVID Restrictions Behind Spike in Maternal Deaths in India: UN

3 min read
Hindi Female

According to a report released by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on 17 March, the unprecedented disruption in health serves due to the COVID pandemic has caused a sharp spike in child and maternal fatalities in South Asia.

The report—which covered India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka— specifically talks of the response of these South Asian countries to the pandemic with the imposition of a sudden and prolonged lockdown, and the direct and indirect impacts that it has had.

The Pandemic and the Disruption of Health Services

According to the report, a total of 239,000 additional child and maternal deaths in the region can be attributed to the sudden halt and major cuts in the availability of essential health services.

According to the report, in the last year there was an 80 per cent drop in the number of young children treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Nepal and Bangladesh and a sharp drop in childhood immunizations in Pakistan and India.

“During the second quarter of 2020, rates of maternal iron deficiency anemia increased by over 40 percent in Nepal and 22 percent in Bangladesh when compared to the same period of 2019,” says the report.

It also talks about how child mortality went up by 15.4% in India in 2020, the highest in South Asia, followed by Bangladesh at 13%. While Sri Lanka recorded the highest spike in maternal deaths with a 21.5% jump.

UNICEF goes on to call for “Health services (to be ) urgently be restored and strengthened to contain the pandemic’s impact on the most vulnerable families,” with these recommended measures:

  • Prioritization of services for the most vulnerable
  • Increase coverage of essential services including childhood immunizations, and family planning services
  • Ensuring the safety of healthcare workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) supply
  • Instituting and strengthening nutrition support services for the most vulnerable children

Other Lasting Implications of COVID Restrictions

Apart from healthcare, the report also examines the impact of the nationwide lockdown on other aspects of society including social services, education, and the economy.

“ Some 420 million South Asia children have been affected by school closures since the beginning of the pandemic, and an estimated 9 million are expected to drop out of school permanently.”

It goes on to specify that of those who drop out, 50% will be girls. This could further lead to

  • An increase in child marriages, resulting in an additional 400,000 adolescent pregnancies.
  • A further increase in the number of maternal and neonatal deaths
  • A spike in stunting among children
  • Deterioration of public health due to unemployment, poverty and food insecurity
The report highlights some wider indirect impacts of the COVID pandemic.
(Photo: UNICEF)
As far as the economic implications are concerned, the report says, the larger South Asian nations are expected to see a rise in poverty rates of between 0.6 and 3.7 per cent, and an average increase in food insecurity of 18 per cent.  

The report warns of the situation worsening on every front if measures of intervention aren’t immediately applied.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit and coronavirus

Topics:  WHO   UNICEF   South Asia 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More