People's Stories Wellbeing

50 million world Covid-19 cases: The actual toll is likely much higher
by NRC, IFRC, Reliefweb, WHO, agencies
19. Nov 2020
11 leading humanitarian aid agencies warn G20 leaders must act to prevent humanitarian catastrophe in wake of Covid-19 economic recession.
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Saudi Arabia on 21 November, 11 aid organisations are calling for early action to prevent soaring rates of hunger and malnutrition resulting from the pandemic-related global economic recession.
“We are seeing spiralling levels of poverty and hunger among refugees and conflict-affected people. Hundreds of thousands still risk being kicked out of their homes, and millions are skipping meals and dropping out of school. The economic impacts of Covid-19 are having a devastating effect on the world’s most vulnerable. G20 leaders have the opportunity and means to address this growing crisis. They must take it,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The World Bank estimates that up to 150 million people may be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021. In June, the International Rescue Committee calculated that the anticipated economic contraction could push 54 million more people in developing countries into hunger; October’s downgraded global GDP forecast puts that estimate at 91 million.
Displaced and conflict-affected communities are particularly vulnerable. In recent research by the Norwegian Refugee Council across 14 crisis-affected countries, 77 per cent of survey respondents stated that they had lost a job or income from work since the pandemic broke out, resulting in 73 per cent cutting the number of household meals. The World Food Programme recently warned of the increased risk of famine in four countries, citing the impacts of Covid-19 as one contributing factor.
“The G20 has pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the global economy during this period of emergency. This must include increased financial support to refugees and displaced people, and action to avert food crises. So far, the G20 has failed to make anything close to the commitments required,” said Jean-Michel Grand, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger UK.
The UN’s Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 remains only 38 per cent funded as of the middle of November 2020. Commitments to offer swift support for the poorest through safety nets and cash transfer programmes have not been met. The World Bank itself has called for “much more broad-based international action”.
“Early and sustained action by the G20 will not only save the lives and livelihoods of millions, but will prevent the crisis from worsening and build on past development investments made by G20 members,” said David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee. “This must be on the agenda for all G20 members at the upcoming summit.”
Eleven aid organisations are urging the G20 leaders to: 
 1) Update the G20 Covid-19 Action plan to address the high risks of food insecurity and malnutrition in fragile and conflict-affected states;
2) Agree to expand inclusive social protection in fragile and conflict-affected states, and coordinate with humanitarian cash providers to reach those at risk of exclusion, including directing multilateral development banks towards this end; and
3) Commit to fully fund the UN’s Covid-19 aid appeals and all UN led Humanitarian Response Plans for both 2020 and 2021. This funding should be fully flexible to allow organisations to adapt and respond to the crisis, and stay and deliver where this is most needed.
9 Nov. 2020
50 million world Covid-19 cases, by Benjamin Rosenberg, Tim Williams and Christina Animashaun for Vox News.
Last New Year’s Eve, a hint of what the world might be in for in 2020 arrived in the form of an Associated Press story about 27 people in Wuhan, China, who had fallen ill with a mysterious strain of viral pneumonia. This was the first news of the new illness reported outside of China.
Less than 11 months later, 50 million people worldwide are confirmed to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the Covid-19 disease. And more than 1,250,000 Covid-19 deaths have been reported.
It’s a grim milestone, one that reflects the coronavirus’s contagiousness as well as a global failure to contain its spread.
Ten highly populated countries account for about two-thirds of confirmed coronavirus tests since the pandemic began, including the United States, Brazil, and Russia. And the high case counts are not just because they have more people than the average country, though a lack of testing in some regions makes direct comparisons more difficult.
But the virus is now spreading faster and further than ever detected before, with new case records being set regularly in Europe and North America. As Vox’s Julia Belluz reported, European hospitals are once again filling up.
The continent’s leaders are reimplementing strict social distancing rules, with curfews and other restrictions imposed in Spain, Italy, and other countries. More sweeping lockdowns have been ordered in some places, including France, Greece, the Czech Republic, and parts of the UK.
The spread is more under control in Australia and New Zealand, as well as much of East Asia and Africa. India and parts of the Middle East, however, have also seen wide disease spread.
And the US has driven up the world’s new case numbers in the past few weeks, due in no small part to a lack of national leadership and a reluctance to implement well-established public health measures like testing, contact tracing, and wearing masks.
How the US became the world’s worst failure in containing Covid-19
The US has the most reported Covid-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world — more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 237,000 confirmed deaths as of November 9, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. Controlling for population, the United States still has one of the worst outbreaks anywhere.
The actual numbers, both globally and in the US, could well be a lot higher, said Eric Toner, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“The 50 million cases globally, we know is an underestimate, probably by a factor of 10 to 20,” Toner said. “There are many, many more people who have been infected than those confirmed cases. Same thing is true for deaths. So we don’t really know how bad it has been, but it’s certainly the worst thing we’ve seen in 100 years.”
President Donald Trump was briefed on the coronavirus beginning in January, but he has continued to downplay the virus’s threat throughout the pandemic.
On February 10, while campaigning in New Hampshire, the president claimed the virus would “miraculously go away.” But three days before, he had already privately told journalist Bob Woodward that Covid-19 was more deadly than the flu.
“What we’ve seen is the absolute failure of effective emergency health communication, which has basic principles that are straightforward,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, who led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under President Barack Obama. “Be first, be right, be credible, give people practical, proven things to do. The US government completely failed on all of those components.”
Trump named Vice President Mike Pence to lead the government’s coronavirus response on February 27. On March 11 — the same day the sports world began to shut down and many schools announced plans for remote learning — the president announced travel restrictions from Europe, after restrictions on travel from China the previous month.
Experts disagree on how effective travel restrictions from Europe and China were, especially because by March the virus was already spreading quickly in areas including New York, Washington state, and California. Moreover, Trump did little with the time that travel restrictions may have bought, ignoring the federal government’s botched development and rollout of coronavirus testing.
It took until March 16 for Trump to introduce social distancing guidelines, and on March 19, he admitted to Woodward that he was purposely downplaying the virus to avoid “creating a panic.” He also acknowledged that younger people were susceptible to Covid-19 as well.
Trump has admitted publicly he has pressured officials to “slow down” testing, not wanting revealed Covid-19 cases to set back reopening of the country.
Equivocation around mask-wearing has been one of his most notable other failures in the pandemic response. In early April, the CDC along with the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended that Americans wear masks “in public settings when around people outside their household, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Trump, however, wore a mask in public for the first time in mid-July, and repeatedly mocked his Democratic opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden, for wearing one.
“The general measures are wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands, as well as strategic closures,” Frieden said. “You have to call on people’s collective sense of responsibility, that we’re all in this together. The lack of recognition that we’re all connected, and the lack of acting on that recognition, has been very problematic.”
States that were reluctant to issue mask mandates or close down nonessential businesses again when cases rose did not help matters, although a lack of federal aid may have played a role in those decisions.
Now, the US is in its third — and worst — wave of surging infections, this time across nearly every region. On November 5, the country set a new single-day record with more than 120,000 new cases reported.
As Vox’s German Lopez explained, those rising numbers are “partly due to more testing exposing more cases. But that can’t be the full explanation, because hospitalizations and the overall rate of positive tests are trending up.” It doesn’t have to stay this way — but it probably will:
'Cities, counties, states, and the federal government — or, short of all that, the public — could take social distancing seriously again. Governments could mandate masks, and the public could opt to wear them without a mandate. Bars and restaurants could close, voluntarily or not. Places that do open, such as schools, could try to adopt aggressive testing-and-tracing regimes to try to keep the coronavirus under some control. Without that, America’s coronavirus epidemic will keep getting worse'.
How the rest of the world has handled the virus
Other than the US, Europe and Latin America have struggled the most to contain Covid-19. Italy and Spain had the biggest outbreaks to be initially detected in Europe. Italy had just 566 new daily confirmed cases on March 1, but that number rose to more than 6,000 by March 26. A strict lockdown successfully contained the disease, but it came back with a vengeance in the fall.
This time, it was Spain that first showed the alarming resurgence on the continent. The country had followed a similar trajectory, with an initial spike in March and a lockdown that almost totally suppressed the virus.
As Spain reopened, however, social distancing rules and enforcement were lax in some areas, and the disease burden shifted more toward younger people with generally less severe cases. At the same time, the keys to controlling epidemic spread — test, trace, and isolate — were underutilized by a public health system that had deteriorated with a decade of fiscal austerity. Cases began to spike again in July, and some more drastic restrictions such as closing restaurants and bars in Catalonia did not come until October.
Spain now has more than 20,000 confirmed cases per day, and continues to record some of the highest numbers of new cases per million people on the continent.
Meanwhile, some European countries were slow to react to Spain’s case surge and impose measures of their own.
As Julia Belluz explained in September, France soon went down the same path as Spain:
'In July, cases started increasing in a way that couldn’t be explained by testing alone — albeit slowly, doubling every two weeks instead of every 3.5 days, like in March. A rise in hospitalizations didn’t follow immediately'.
It’s become clear that was because younger people were catching the virus. By mid-August, “the virus started to affect older people, and then a few weeks later, hospitalizations have started to increase,” said [Edouard Mathieu, the Paris-based data manager of Oxford University’s Our World in Data project]. By September 10, the French public health ministry reported that new Covid-19 hospitalizations were growing in all but one region of the country.
As outbreaks have spread across the continent again, several countries have returned to full or partial lockdowns to combat the new surge, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
Before Europe’s coronavirus resurgence, South America’s outbreaks had begun to spiral out of control, and the hardest-hit has been Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s far-right populist and a Trump ally, has waved off the virus in much the same way as Trump. He ignored a growing outbreak in the Amazon region in the spring, and touted hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment for Covid-19 despite a lack of evidence that it helps at all. His government continues to endorse questionable treatments for the virus.
Bolsonaro himself tested positive for the virus in July. He has opposed mask mandates and social distancing measures, and sought to reopen the economy almost as soon as regional restrictions were imposed in March.
Brazil has had by far the most confirmed cases in Latin America, with nearly 5.6 million, though new cases are on a downward trend. Other countries in the region have been hit hard, too: Argentina and Colombia each have more than a million cases, and Peru will likely join them soon.
Central America has seen wide disease spread in some countries as well, and Mexico in particular has been criticized for insufficient testing to accurately determine the scope of community transmission.
Other regions have so far done a better job containing the spread, including Africa, despite dire predictions early on about potential spread on the continent. Africa is home to 17 percent of the world’s population but accounted for just 3.5 percent of reported Covid-19 deaths, as of early October. Africa has a younger population compared to other continents, and Covid-19 is most severe in older people.
But that’s likely not the only reason behind the relatively fewer confirmed deaths and cases: Many African countries, including Kenya and Lesotho, acted quickly in issuing health guidance and social distancing measures. And the experience of countries on the continent with previous epidemics may have helped officials and the public prepare better for this one.
Parts of Asia have also fared well. China, where the virus originated, initially sought to hide information about the virus. But officials soon changed course, locking down cities and ordering widespread testing. The country — of more than 1.4 billion people — still has fewer than 100,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins data.
South Korea quickly contained an early outbreak. And Australia and New Zealand — it helps being islands — have been among the best in the world at suppressing the virus.
The reasons behind disease spread are complicated, and not every country’s situation can be easily compared.
But these seem to be key factors in stemming the tide of an outbreak: Quick action, clear health guidance, public trust, robust testing and surveillance systems, and thorough contact tracing. Many countries in the Pacific have managed all of these.
“Certainly, we can point to Taiwan, to Singapore, to South Korea, to Japan,” Toner said. “But also places like Vietnam have done a very good job. Certainly, Australia and New Zealand have been great examples. They’ve done a really good job with messaging and containment.”
* 20 Nov. 2020 - USA: Over 255,000 deaths, 12 million cases - Today 195,000 new cases 1,878 deaths:
4 Nov. 2020
According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which consolidates data from a range of sources, as of November 4, there have been 47,582,064 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in 190 countries and regions.
There have been more than 47.5 million COVID-19 cases across the world, with more than 1.2 million deaths. Over the past month, the number of confirmed cases per day has exploded, with nearly double the amount of daily new cases—more than 500,000 per day—as there were one month ago.
The number of deaths per day has also risen precipitously over the last month. If the trend continues, we will likely see daily deaths in the coming weeks that are higher than those recorded in April.
The United States has in the last week averaged more than 85,000 new cases per day; on October 30, the country recorded its first day with more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases. The number of deaths also continues to rise, albeit slower than the growth in new cases. As of November 2, the seven-day moving average for new deaths was at 850, roughly 150 deaths higher than the low reached in mid-October. Over the coming weeks, deaths are likely to continue to rise, as it is common for COVID-19 deaths to lag multiple weeks behind a spike in new cases.
Cases continue to explode across the European continent. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are all seeing confirmed cases at much higher rates than in the spring. This rapid increase in cases has led to new restrictions throughout the continent.
France has implemented a second national lockdown, in which individuals can leave home only to go to work, to buy essential goods, to seek medical help or to exercise for one hour per day.
In Germany, many businesses have been forced to close, including cinemas, theatres, gyms, pools and saunas. Restaurants and bars also are closed, except for takeaway.Italy has imposed a three-tiered system by region in which some areas will see nearly all non-essential businesses close.
Spain has entered a new state of emergency, with a nationwide curfew, among other restrictions. In the United Kingdom, the government implemented a four-week lockdown that began this week.
28 Sep. 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 1 million lives around the globe.
John Hopkins University reported that the number of reported deaths worldwide surpassed 1 million on Monday morning. The true number of deaths and infections are likely higher due to a lack of sufficient testing and reporting in many countries.
The highest death tolls come from the U.S., Brazil and India. Together they make up more than 40% of the global count. India has surpassed 6 million reported cases of the virus, becoming the second country behind the U.S. to reach that many infections. The U.S. on Friday topped 7 million cases of the virus. Last week, it also exceeded 200,000 reported deaths.
Preventing another million from dying from the virus will only be possible if countries use all the tools available, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) say. This includes issuing physical distancing measures, mass testing and contact tracing.
If they fail to prevent coronavirus transmission, however, it's not only "imaginable" that there could be another one million dead but it's "likely," said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies programme.
Sep. 2020.
“A million individual tragedies” – IFRC statement as official COVID-19 death toll hits 1 million
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC): “Today, we stand in grim solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of families that have lost loved ones. A million deaths represent 1 million individual tragedies and countless heartbreaks. They represent many, many thousands of orphans, of widows, of holes in families and community fabrics that will never be filled. They also represent countless health care workers and frontline responders, including many Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff, who have lost their lives.
“We know that this is just one more sad milestone in the tragedy that is COVID-19. This is without a doubt one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in recent times. So today we pause in grief. Yet we continue with our work.
“As we have all learned since the start of this pandemic, there is no quick fix. The best advice remains the same as it has been for months: we can lessen and even contain this virus when we adhere to basic public health measures. These include social distancing, the proper use of face masks, good hand hygiene, and robust contact tracing. Where these and other measures are followed, we have seen, and will continue to see, progress.
“Equally important is ensuring that at-risk communities are engaged and listened to. Their beliefs, worries and fears need to be understood and acted upon. Trust between communities and authorities will be crucial to ending this pandemic. And of course, as we focus around the clock on responding to the outbreak in every corner of the world, we need to be planning for the support that millions of people will need to rebuild their lives even once this illness is finally defeated.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IFRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have reached tens of millions of people in nearly every country around the world with a range of services, including health care, water and sanitation, mental health support and community engagement activities.
2 Sep 2020
COVID-19 has infected some 570,000 health workers and killed 2,500 in the Americas, reports the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
Health workers are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and in the Region of the Americas, “We have the highest number of health care workers infected in the world,” PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said during a press conference today. “Our data shows that nearly 570,000 health workers across our region have fallen ill and more than 2,500 have succumbed to the virus.”
With almost 13.5 million COVID 19 cases and over 469,000 deaths reported in the Americas, including around 4,000 deaths a day in our region, the scale of this pandemic is unprecedented. “No other group has felt this more acutely than the very men and women who make up our health workforce,” Etienne said.
She noted that “in the U.S. and Mexico—which have some of the highest case counts in the world—health workers represent one in every seventh case” and these two countries account for nearly 85% of all COVID deaths among health care workers in our region.
To combat these trends, “countries must ensure that health workers can do their jobs safely. This will require maintaining sufficient supplies of PPE and ensuring that everyone is effectively trained in infection control to avoid risking their own health.”
Countries should also ensure safe working conditions and fair pay for health workers, highlighted Etienne. “This is particularly important for women, the majority of our health work force, who must be supported to fully participate and lead the response to the pandemic.”
The PAHO director cited several reasons for the high rates of infection in health workers in the Americas, noting that as countries scrambled to respond to the virus, “many health workers were redirected to the outbreak response without sufficient training to protect themselves as they were treating COVID 19 patients.”
As patients surged, “hospitals became overcrowded and many were too slow to implement triaging protocols. This meant that COVID 19 patients were exposed to others who may have been seeking care for different conditions, and soon everyone carried a risk of infection, leaving health workers more vulnerable,” she said.
Early in the pandemic, supplies of Personal Protective Equipment were scarce. “Health workers were forced to reuse masks and gowns, seek alternatives or forgo protection altogether to care for those in need,” Etienne said.
Maintaining sufficient supplies of PPE and ensuring that everyone is effectively trained in infection control to avoid risking their own health is key, she said. PAHO has been supporting countries in building designated triage and case management zones to protect health workers and patients. “We have also donated over 31 million masks and more than 1.4 million gloves and gowns to protect our frontline response.”
Months of operating under enormous pressure have also had strong mental and psychological impacts on health workers, including isolation from family and friends. “Shockingly, dozens of health workers have been assaulted over the last few months as a result of the public’s misplaced fear, misinformation or frustration from this pandemic,” she added.
Etienne also cited a recent Epidemiological Alert from PAHO, which says “In light of the increase in cases and deaths of COVID-19 among healthcare workers in the countries and territories in the Region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) urges Member States to strengthen the capacity of healthcare services across all levels and to equip healthcare workers with the appropriate resources and training in order to ensure an adequate and timely response to the pandemic within the healthcare system.”
Sep. 2020
In the first global projections of the COVID-19 pandemic by nation, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine is predicting nearly 770,000 lives worldwide could be saved between now and January 1 through proven measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
Cumulative deaths expected by January 1 total 2.8 million, about 1.9 million more from now until the end of the year. Daily deaths in December could reach as high as 30,000.
“These first-ever worldwide projections by country offer a daunting forecast as well as a roadmap toward relief from COVID-19 that government leaders as well as individuals can follow,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.
“We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States. But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”
The Institute modeled three scenarios:
A “worse case” in which mask usage stays at current rates and governments continue relaxing social distancing requirements, leading to 4.0 million total deaths by the end of the year;
A “best case” of 2.0 million total deaths if mask usage is near-universal and governments impose social distancing requirements when their daily death rate exceeds 8 per million; and a “most likely” scenario that assumes individual mask use and other mitigation measures remain unchanged, resulting in approximately 2.8 million total deaths.
The references to 750,000 lives saved and 30,000 daily deaths in December represent the differences between the “best case” and “most likely” scenarios.
Each of these scenarios represents a significant increase over the current total deaths, estimated at nearly 910,000 worldwide. The increase is due in part to a likely seasonal rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northern Hemisphere. To date, COVID-19 has followed seasonal patterns similar to pneumonia, and if that correlation continues to hold, northern countries can anticipate more cases in the late fall and winter months.
“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray said.
Murray highlighted the unprecedented opportunity to save lives with rapid action.
“Looking at the staggering COVID-19 estimates, it’s easy to get lost in the enormity of the numbers,” Murray said. “The number of deaths exceeds the capacity of the world’s 50 largest stadiums, a sobering image of the people who have lost their lives and livelihoods.”
Under the most likely of IHME’s scenarios, the nations with the highest per capita total deaths would be the US Virgin Islands, the Netherlands, and Spain. By WHO region, this scenario projects 959,685 total deaths by January 1 in the Region of the Americas, 667,811 in the European Region, 79,583 in the African Region, 168,711 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 738,427 in the South-East Asia Region, and 191,598 in the Western Pacific Region. U.S. coronavirus deaths are projected to more than double to 410,000 by January.
* The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) offers independent appraisals of preparedness and response capacity for disease outbreaks and other emergencies with health consequences, see reports:
Sep. 2020
Disruptions in child and maternal health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic are putting millions of young lives at stake. (UNICEF/WHO, agencies)
Surveys by UNICEF and WHO reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo hard-won progress in reducing under-five mortality.
“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of COVID-19. Without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.”
Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birthweight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives.
Now countries worldwide are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services, such as health checkups, vaccinations and prenatal and post-natal care, due to resource constraints and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting COVID-19.
A UNICEF survey conducted over the summer across 77 countries found that almost 68 per cent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunization services. In addition, 63 per cent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 per cent in post-natal care.
A recent WHO survey based on responses from 105 countries revealed that 52 per cent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 per cent in services for management of malnutrition.
Health interventions such as these are critical for stopping preventable newborn and child deaths. For example, women who receive care by professional midwives trained according to internationals standards are 16 per cent less likely to lose their baby and 24 per cent less likely to experience pre-term birth, according to WHO.
"The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Now, we must not let the COVID-19 pandemic turn back progress for our children and future generations. Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.”
Based on the responses from countries that participated in the UNICEF and WHO surveys, the most commonly cited reasons for health service disruptions included parents avoiding health centers for fear of infection; transport restrictions; suspension or closure of services and facilities; fewer healthcare workers due to diversions or fear of infection due to shortages in personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves; and greater financial difficulties. Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen are among the hardest hit countries.
Seven of the nine countries had high child mortality rates of more than 50 deaths per 1000 live births among children under five in 2019. In Afghanistan, where 1 in 17 children died before reaching age 5 in 2019, the Ministry of Health reported a significant reduction in visits to health facilities. Out of fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus, families are de-prioritizing pre- and post-natal care, adding to the risk faced by pregnant women and newborn babies.
Even before COVID-19, newborns were at highest risk of death. In 2019, a newborn baby died every 13 seconds. Moreover, 47 per cent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period, up from 40 per cent in 1990. With severe disruptions in essential health services, newborn babies could be at much higher risk of dying.
For example, in Cameroon, where 1 out of every 38 newborns died in 2019, the UNICEF survey reported an estimated 75 per cent disruptions in services for essential newborn care, antenatal check-ups, obstetric care and post-natal care.
In May, initial modelling by Johns Hopkins University showed that almost 6,000 additional children could die per day due to disruptions due to COVID-19.
These reports and surveys highlight the need for urgent action to restore and improve childbirth services and antenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies, including having skilled health workers to care for them at birth. Working with parents to assuage their fears and reassure them is also important.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “It is essential to protect life-saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality. We will continue to work with governments and partners to reinforce healthcare systems to ensure mothers and children get the services they need.”
"The new report demonstrates the ongoing progress worldwide in reducing child mortality,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “While the report highlights the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on interventions that are critical for children’s health, it also draws attention to the need to redress the vast inequities in a child's prospects for survival and good health.”
Sep. 2020
“The Hidden Impact of COVID-19 on children - A global research series” by Save the Children is the largest and most comprehensive study on the impact of COVID-19 on children.
Some 13.5 thousand children and 31.5 thousand caregivers from 46 countries shared their experiences, fears, hopes and messages for leaders in this study. The extensive study includes the voices of the most marginalised children and general public - with our in-depth analysis focussing on a representative random sample of 25,000 Save the Children program participants across 37 countries globally.
The global study reveals the hidden impacts of pandemic response measures which are impacting children’s health, nutrition, education, learning, protection, wellbeing, family finances and poverty. For the most marginalised and deprived children, those impacts have the potential to be life-altering and potentially devastating.
Globally, more than 8 in 10 children felt that they were learning little or nothing at all, and two thirds of parents and caregivers reported their child had received no contact from teachers since their schools closed.
Three-quarters of households lost income as a result of COVID-19, and the vast majority of households (96%) reported having trouble paying for an essential item or service. Four in five struggled to pay for food and two in five households found it difficult to provide their families with a nutritious diet. Most parents and caregivers (89%) reported that their access to healthcare, medicine or medical supplies had been affected.
Our results also show a significant impact on the psycho-social wellbeing of children and their caregivers. More than 8 in 10 children reported an increase in negative feelings. One third of households had a child or caregiver reporting violence in the home. Children reported that violence was higher when schools were closed, compared to when they were attending in person.
The poorest households, households with disabilities, female headed-households and girls, are the hardest hit. The recommendations guided by views & voices of children provide guidance on the next steps needed to build back better for a post COVID-19 future which respects, protects and fulfils the rights of all children, in all contexts.
June 2020
Lockdowns have saved more than three million lives from coronavirus in Europe, new study estimates. (BBC News, agencies)
The team at Imperial College London said the "death toll would have been huge" without lockdown.
But they warned that only a small proportion of people had been infected and we were still only "at the beginning of the pandemic".
The Imperial study assessed the impact of restrictions in 11 European countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK - up to the beginning of May. By that time, around 130,000 people had died from coronavirus in those countries.
The researchers used disease modelling to predict how many deaths there would have been if lockdown had not happened. They estimated 3.2 million people would have died by 4 May if not for measures such as closing businesses and telling people to stay at home.
That meant lockdown saved around 3.1 million lives, including 470,000 in the UK, 690,000 in France and 630,000 in Italy, the report in the journal Nature shows.
"Lockdown averted millions of deaths, those deaths would have been a tragedy," said Dr Seth Flaxman, from Imperial.
The researchers estimate that up to 15 million people across Europe had been infected by the beginning of May. The researchers say at most, 4% of the population in those countries had been infected.
"Claims this is all over can be firmly rejected. We are only at the beginning of this pandemic," said Dr Flaxman.
And it means that as lockdowns start to lift, there is the risk the virus could start to spread again.
"There is a very real risk if mobility goes back up there could be a second wave coming reasonably soon, in the next month or two," said Dr Samir Bhatt.
Meanwhile, a separate study by University of California, Berkeley, analysed the impact of lockdowns in China, South Korea, Iran, France and the US.
Their report, says lockdowns prevented 530 million infections in those countries. Just before lockdowns were introduced, they said cases were doubling every two days.
The coronavirus would have infected nearly one in five Americans, 60 million people, in the first few weeks of the outbreak without shutdowns or social distancing, according to the peer-reviewed study led by the University of California at Berkeley.
Dr Solomon Hsiang, one of the researchers, said coronavirus had been a "real human tragedy" but the global action to stop the spread of the virus had "saved more lives, in a shorter period of time, than ever before".

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280 million children in sub-Saharan Africa dealing with food insecurity
by Marie-Pierre Poirier
Director for UNICEF West and Central Africa
Nov. 2020
The well-being of children in sub-Saharan Africa is under siege from all directions since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The region is now suffering its first-ever economic recession, pushing about 50 million people into extreme poverty, a majority of whom are children.
This would be the largest single year change ever recorded in either absolute or percentage terms – and by a wide margin. The total number of extreme poor living in sub-Saharan Africa has now likely crossed the 500 million mark, which is approaching close to double the number in 1990 when progress against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started to be measured.
The region was already a challenging place for many of its 550 million children, but the pandemic has intensified many of the crises they face – and created new ones. About 280 million children – or more than half of the child population – may be dealing with food insecurity. By April 2020, more than 50 million students had lost access to free daily meals, with more than 40 million of those impacted for at least six months and counting.
Moreover, school closures impacted around 250 million students in sub-Saharan Africa, adding to the 100 million out of school children before the pandemic. Learning completely stopped for most of them, which has already reduced their lifelong earning potential. Millions are unlikely to ever return to the classroom.
Other challenges include rising prices of basic goods and services, movement restrictions and disruptions to crucial social services, as well as droughts, floods, locust invasions and conflict.
“The challenges children in our region face are unprecedented and will have long-lasting harmful effect on their lives and the lives of their communities,” says Mohamed Fall, Regional Director for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa. “Extraordinary problems require extraordinary solutions. Expanding cash transfer programmes financed in novel ways could be the solution we need. But the clock is ticking.”
Giving cash to households can mitigate and even prevent most of the current challenges facing children; it can also boost economic growth, build social protection systems and future resilience to shocks, and achieve big cost-savings over time.
For example, giving a cash equivalent to 20 per cent of the average monthly income of a country to all children under 5 for six months would cost between 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent of GDP. Such a programme could potentially boost per capita GDP by 2.4 per cent, on average, and help offset much of the current downturn. A full year of cash support to all young children could catapult many economies back into positive territory.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, Regional Director for UNICEF West and Central Africa, notes: “The global and regional evidence on the benefits of cash transfers for children, families and economies is simply overwhelming, especially when they are delivered through strong social protection systems. And while policymakers across sub-Saharan Africa have recognized their importance, greater external funding support is required so that cash transfers can reach their full potential and mitigate this socioeconomic crisis.”
Cash transfers have been used to respond to the current crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, however funding has been severely constrained. Governments have reallocated as much as they can to respond to the crisis, but it is not nearly enough. Even when adding total approved external assistance and announced fiscal stimulus plans, the average person in sub-Saharan Africa benefits from 2 per cent of the amount of emergency support received by citizens of the G20 countries ($38 versus $1,652).
However, a scale up of cash transfers can be realized by combining domestic and external resources. It could take the form of a global funding facility, which could be resourced by debt relief savings, global emergency funds from the international financial institutions and the fulfillment of official development assistance commitments by donor governments. Out-of-box financing approaches could also help, like selling IMF gold reserves, issuing long-term bonds, and introducing one or more cross-border fractional taxes.
This could support the safe reopening of schools and economies as well as the scaling up of national cash transfer programmes and strengthening of social protection systems. And in doing so, it could offer hope for children, economies and the continent as they contend with the impacts of COVID-19, climate, conflict and other shocks.

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