The coronavirus pandemic threatens to turn back the clock on a decade of progress in women and children’s health, according to a United Nations (UN) report released on Friday.
The report highlights significant advances made since the launch of the UN’s Every Woman Every Child movement 10 years ago, including more than one billion children being vaccinated, and deaths of under-fives reaching an all-time low in 2019.
However, the report notes that these gains were not evenly distributed across the globe.
Last year, 5.2 million children died of preventable causes before reaching age 5, and 82 percent of those deaths were concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The coronavirus crisis is exacerbating existing inequalities, with the most vulnerable women and children most affected by disruptions to health services, according to the UN.
Without more efforts to tackle preventable child deaths, 48 million children under five could die between 2020 and 2030, the report warns.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a child under the age of five died every six seconds somewhere around the world,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a press release.
“Millions of children living in conflict zones and fragile settings face even greater hardship with the onset of the pandemic.”