The World Health Organisation (WHO) has alerted that the COVID-19 pandemic is claiming lives in hundreds of thousands globally, disrupting livelihoods and threatening recent advances in health and progress towards global development goals.
It said the pandemic was particularly challenging, as it was threatening aged persons, who were hitherto living longer and healthier lives.
In its 2020 World Health Statistics published yesterday, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “The good news is that people around the world are living longer and healthier lives. The bad news is the rate of progress is too slow to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will be further challenged by COVID-19.
“The pandemic highlights the urgent need for all countries to invest in stronger health systems and primary healthcare, as the best defense against outbreaks like COVID-19 and against the other health threats that people around the world face every day. Health systems and health security are two sides of the same coin.”
WHO’s World Health Statistics, an annual check-up on the world’s health, reports progress against series of key health and health service indicators, revealing some important lessons in terms of progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals and gaps to fill.
According to the report, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy have increased, but unequally. The biggest gains were reported in low-income countries, which saw life expectancy rise by 21 per cent or 11 years between 2000 and 2016 (compared with an increase of four per cent or three years in higher income countries).
Meanwhile, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has declared that an additional 950 Nigerian children may die daily from preventable causes in the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts routine services and threatens to weaken health systems.
These potential child deaths would be in addition to the 475,200 children who already die before their fifth birthday every six months – threatening to reverse a decade of progress in ending preventable child mortality in Nigeria.
Also, about 6,800 more maternal deaths could also occur in Nigeria in just six months while globally, 6,000 additional children under five could die every day.
Country Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja, noting that in countries with overall weak health systems, like Nigeria, COVID-19 is causing disruptions in medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources and warned that these disruptions could result in potentially devastating increases in maternal and child deaths.
Hawkins noted that visits to health care centres were declining due to lockdowns, curfews, disruptions in transportation and as communities remain fearful of infection.
He 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 for the country in general.”