New Delhi, May 8th

With half of children under five in India undernourished, the current Covid-19 crisis could further affect nutrition and services for children across the country, who are hit by a violent second wave, the UN Children’s Fund said UNICEF.

“With 27 million births and 30 million pregnancies each year, life-saving services to assist women in childbirth are vital in India,” said Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF representative in India, on Friday.

“As health facilities continue to be overwhelmed by treating Covid-19 patients, there have been reports of pregnant women struggling to find the support they need to give birth.” She noted that schools across the country are closed and distance learning is also disrupted in several states.

“This is tearing 247 million primary and secondary children out of these safe spaces when they need them most. In addition, many children do not have access to digital learning, so the learning loss for children in India will continue.

“We are helping the government ensure that critical services for the most vulnerable children continue to operate in all states.

“UNICEF in India has been working tirelessly on the ground since the beginning of the pandemic.” The UN official noted that India is being hit by a ferocious second wave of Covid-19.

“In the past 24 hours (through May 7th) India carried the burden of 414,188 new daily cases. This is the highest daily number of cases ever recorded by any country in the history of the Covid-19 pandemic – even higher than the number per day earlier (412,262). There have been 3,915 deaths from Covid-19.

“UNICEF is very concerned about this fatal daily increase in new cases. This wave is almost four times the size of the first wave and the virus is spreading much faster. On average there have been more than four new cases per second and more than two deaths each Minute in the last 24 hours.

“As cases rise, the virus is affecting more people in different age groups, including children and toddlers.” She said: “What is happening in India should set off alarm bells for all of us. The pandemic is far from over. Covid-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate across South Asia, particularly in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives health systems could collapse and lead to more tragic deaths.

“Very low vaccination rates in most South Asian countries (less than 10 percent in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal) are adding to concerns about the further spiral of the virus. In addition to South Asia, there are alarming situations in other parts of South Asia as well.

“As COVID-19 cases have increased, so too has the impact on children affected by the virus. And of course, the impact of the outbreak and public health and social health measures on children after the virus will increase second wave likely to worsen.

“Children are losing parents and carers to the virus, leaving many of them destitute without parental care.” The UN official said, “Although there is not enough data yet, we can see that illegal adoption grounds have surfaced on social media, making these orphans vulnerable to human trafficking and abuse.

“UNICEF calls for greater efforts to protect these orphans. We need to promote care for relatives, support family tracing, improve officials and accelerate sponsorship of destitute families.

“This increase has serious consequences for children whose access to basic health, social, protective and educational services is limited.

“Children face mental health problems and are at greater risk of violence because they are locked out of their vital support networks.

“You’re missing out on the life-saving routine immunization, critical care, and treatment for pneumonia and other diseases.” UNICEF has sent vital life saving supplies to help India through this difficult time. For example, there are 3,000 oxygen concentrators, test kits, and other critical devices.

It has sent additional life-saving supplies to India, including two million face shields and 200,000 surgical masks. In addition, 2,000 more oxygen concentrators will arrive by the second half of May, and another 2,650 will be procured.

“We support the regular monitoring of more than 50,000 Covid vaccination centers in 27 states of India,” said the UN official.

“Covid has shown more than ever that we live in a connected world. India is in danger today. We need solidarity to prevent the situation in other countries from getting worse. We are very grateful for the support and compassion of the international community. We need the compassion and contribution to keep going until we see the end of the pandemic, “she added. IANS