The United Nations Emergency Fund, UNICEF, has warned that lockdown could kill more people than COVID-19, predicting there could be 1.2 million child deaths.
The warning came at a time physicians all over the world also called on governments not to relent in providing the World Health Organisation, WHO, with sufficient funds, warning that withholding funds to the organisation as this time of a pandemic was neither helpful nor safe.
This warning came ahead of the 73rd World Health Assembly which begins tomorrow.
UNICEF noted that “indiscriminate lockdowns were an ineffective way to control COVID-19 and could contribute to a 45 percent rise in child mortality.”
It contended further the risk of children dying from malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea in developing countries was spiralling due to the pandemic and “far outweighs any threat presented by the coronavirus.’’
Chief of Health at UNICEF, Dr Stefan Peterson, cautioned in an interview with The Telegraph in London that the blanket lockdowns imposed in many low and middle income countries were not an effective way to control COVID-19 and could have deadly repercussions.
“Indiscriminate lockdown measures do not have an optimal effect on the virus,” he told The Telegraph. “If you’re asking families to stay at home in one room in a slum, without food or water, that won’t limit virus transmission.
“I’m concerned that lockdown measures have been copied between countries for lack of knowing what to do, rarely with any contextualisation for the local situation.
“One size fits no one. The objective is to slow the virus, not to lockdown people. We need to lift our eyes and look at the total picture of public health.’’
Nigeria, Tanzania, Congo, others’ll be hard hit in under-5, maternal mortality deaths
The modelling projected that India would see both the largest number of additional deaths in children under five and maternal mortality, followed by Nigeria,Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Indonesia are also likely to be hit hard.
Such a situation has some precedent – research has shown that in 2014, during the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, more people died from indirect effects than the disease itself. But the scale of the pandemic means the consequences will be far greater.
“Ever since we started counting child deaths and maternal mortality, those numbers have been going down and down and down,” said Dr Peterson. “And actually these times are unprecedented because we’re very likely to be looking at a scenario where figures are going up.
World physicians warn against withholding funds from WHO
Meanwhile, as the 73rd World Health Assembly begins tomorrow, leaders of physicians all over the world have called on governments not to relent in providing WHO with sufficient funds, warning that withholding funds to the organisation at this time of a pandemic was neither helpful nor safe.
The physicians from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe in a joint statement also noted that WHO was in dire need of structural reform to ensure its independence from political or ideological assaults.
The statement read: “We acknowledge the work of the WHO and its leadership as a technical agency for providing guidance, coordination and support for public health, and we underline its efforts to bring Universal Health Coverage to all people. This is even more crucial in times of a pandemic.
“However, we also appeal to all and foremost to democratic governments, to reject any political abuse or undue influence by governments or any other parties in the execution of the International Health Regulations and the technical work of the WHO.
‘’We also urge the WHO to resist any undue political influence and to concentrate on its health and scientific mission. This requires constant vigilance against such abuse and the swift rejection of any attempts to exclude or prioritise individual territories in the work of the health agency.”
The statement was jointly signed by leaders of the World Medical Association, Coalition of African Medical Associations, Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania, CONFEMEL (the Confederation of Medical Entities of Ibero-America and the Caribbean), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the Standing Committee of European Doctors.