In a modeling study published in The Lancet, Global Health on May 12th 2020, authors estimated how the COVID-19 pandemic will indirectly increase maternal and child mortality in 118 low-income and middle-income countries.
Here are the key findings:
- While COVID-19 mortality rates for children and women of reproductive age appear to be low, these groups might be disproportionately affected by indirect effects of the pandemic, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries.
- Indirect effects include the restructuring of health systems to address the influx of COVID-19 patients (and a reduction in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services), the disruption of global pharmaceutical and medical supply chains, and stay-at-home orders negatively affecting economies and pushing already vulnerable groups further into poverty and food insecurity.
- In this study, authors estimated the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths which will result from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- They modeled three different scenarios in which the coverage of essential maternal and child health interventions is reduced by around 10 to 52%, and the prevalence of wasting (a low weight for height) is increased by 10 to 50%.
- Their least severe scenario over 6 months would result in 253,000 additional child deaths and 12,200 additional maternal deaths. Their most severe scenario over 6 months would result in 1,157,000 additional child deaths and 56,700 additional maternal deaths.
- Across the three scenarios, the reduced coverage of four childbirth interventions would account for approximately 60% of additional maternal deaths (parenteral administration of uterotonics, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants, and clean birth environments).
- The increase in wasting (low weight for height) prevalence would account for 18-23% of additional child deaths, and reduced coverage of certain antibiotics and rehydration solutions for diarrhoea would together account for around 41% of additional child deaths.
- These results highlight how the indirect effects of the pandemic are not merely economic, and that the disruption of health care delivery will cause an increase in the number of women and children dying. Interventions like ready-to-use therapeutic foods to decrease food insecurity and maintaining coverage of essential child immunisations could mitigate these effects.
Read the full study here.