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80 million children risk being exposed to measles, pneumonia

COVID-19 pandemic has halted immunization campaigns across the globe due to lockdowns which is rendering many children vulnerable to measles. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 80 million children in the world could face the risk of suffering from measles, diphtheria and pneumonia.

In a joint statement, the World Health Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Fund-UNICEF and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, note that as many as 80 million children under one year of age face the risk of succumbing to the diseases because countries are cancelling planned mass campaigns and low numbers of children going for routine immunization due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, over 5 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed with over 300,000 deaths.

However, according to health agencies, more children are more likely to die from measles compared to COVID-19.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General says that children in 68 countries in the world face the risk of missing out on life-saving vaccines due to effects of COVID-19.

According to WHO, lockdowns that have been instituted by many countries have left many children unable to access vital vaccines.

Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF says that as the world focuses on COVID-19, gains that had been made in other parts of the world like the eradication of wild polio in Africa are at risk of being reversed.

“We fear COVID-19 is a health crisis that is quickly turning into a child rights crisis. Additional data from John Hopkins shows that another 6,000 children could die daily from preventable causes over the next six months as the pandemic continues to disrupt routine services,” she said.

Seth Berkley, the Chief Executive Officer of GAVI Alliance says that the impact that COVID-19 will have on children is alarming.

However, the agencies are also facing funding gaps. According to GAVI, USD 200mn is needed for the organization to be able to deliver vaccines to over 300 million children globally for the next five years.

In addition to this, Fore says they face logistical challenges caused by the halting of international travel.

In Uganda, data from the health ministry shows that uptake of routine immunization vaccines has reduced by 65 percent since lockdown started.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization manager says they are planning on carrying out supplementary vaccination campaigns to try and reach out to children who missed out on planned immunization.

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