The risk of children dying from malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea in developing countries is spiralling due to the pandemic and “far outweighs any threat presented by the coronavirus”, Unicef has warned.
In an exclusive interview Dr Stefan Peterson, chief of health at Unicef, cautioned that the blanket lockdowns imposed in many low and middle income are 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,” he said.
“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.”
According to a stark report published in Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday, almost 1.2 million children could die in the next six months due to the disruption to health services and food supplies caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The modelling, by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Unicef, found that child mortality rates could rise by as much as 45 per cent due to coronavirus-related disruptions, while maternal deaths could increase by almost 39 per cent.
Dr Peterson said these figures were in part a reflection of stringent restrictions in much of the world that prevent people leaving their homes without documentation, preventing them from accessing essential health care services.