Covid-19 health care disruption is likely to lead to an estimated 239,000 deaths among mothers and children in South Asia, according to a new UN report.
Based in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, home to 1.8 billion people.
The report found that women, children and young people were the most affected.
South Asia has already reported nearly thirteen million Covid cases and more than 186,000 deaths.
Many countries, including those in South Asia, have responded to the epidemic with strong closure. While hospitals, pharmacies, and shops remained open, almost everything else was closed.
The report – The direct and indirect results of the Covid-19 Pandemic and Response in South Asia – examines the impact of these government’s approaches to health care, social services, including schools and the economy.
It estimates that there will be an additional 228,000 deaths of children under the age of five in these six countries as a result of significant services, ranging from nutritional benefits to vaccines, which are suspended.
It says the number of children being treated for malnutrition has dropped by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal, and childhood immunizations have dropped by 35% and 65% in India and Pakistan respectively.
The report also said child mortality had risen sharply in India by 2020 – by 15.4% – followed by Bangladesh by 13%. Sri Lanka has seen the largest increase in maternal mortality – 21.5% followed by 21.3% in Pakistan.
It also estimates that there will be an additional 3.5 million unwanted pregnancies, including 400,000 among adolescents, due to infertility.
The full impact of the epidemic – and the ensuing closure – is beginning to show as countries scrutinize their public health and education programs.
Indian experts are already worried that malnutrition rates will worsen across the country as data enters the next few months.
Some South Asian countries, such as India, still struggle with the growing epidemic. By the time the national closure ended in June last year, many provinces and territories have adopted deadlines to control the spread of the virus.
Disruption of health services has also affected those suffering from other diseases – the report predicts that there will be more than 5,943 deaths across the region among young people who have not been treated for tuberculosis, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV / Aids.