UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly issued an emergency call to action to avoid major measles, as well as polio epidemics as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt vaccination services worldwide that left millions of vulnerable children at risk.
Both the UN organizations estimate that $655 million—$400 million for polio and $255 million for measles—are needed for non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, said that the pandemic has had a "devastating effect" on the global healthcare system and in particular immunization services. But according to him, unlike with the novel Coronavirus infection, "we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children's lives will be saved".
Fight Against All Disease Not Only COVID-19
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said that while fighting against the Coronavirus pandemic the world cannot allow it to "cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases." The current COVID-19 situation is critical but there are other deadly diseases that also threaten millions of children's lives in some of the poorest areas of the world.
This is the reason why "we are urgently calling for global action from country leaders, donors, and partners," said Fore. The efforts from UN agencies need additional financial support to safely resume vaccination campaigns, as well as prioritize immunization systems that are extremely important to protect children and prevent other epidemics besides SARS-CoV-2.
In the past few years, there has been a global resurgence of measles with ongoing outbreaks in all parts of the planet. This year, the Vaccination coverage gaps have been further worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic. Measles is an ongoing health issue and last year, it climbed to the highest number of new infections in more than two decades. The annual mortality data for 2019 to be released next week that will reveal the continued negative toll around the world.
Experts believe that polio virus transmission could increase in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as many areas in Africa. As per UNICEF, the failure to eliminate this disease could lead to a global resurgence of polio that could cause as many as 200,000 new cases annually, within 10 years.
However, the world can expect some good news soon as the organizations have planned for new tools, including a next-generation novel oral polio vaccine and Measles Outbreak Strategic Response Plan that could be deployed over the coming months, that would help tackle the growing threats and save millions of lives.
Deaths from TB During Pandemic
Recently scientists said that hundreds of thousand extra deaths due to tuberculosis are likely to occur in 2020 as a result of the pandemic's effect on global health services.
In countries like Africa, India, and Indonesia the doctors as well as healthcare workers have been shifted the focus from tracking TB patients to Coronavirus infection cases. As a result, millions of TB diagnoses have been missed, and as per the WHO this could cause 200,000 to 400,000 excess deaths from TB only in 2020.
Thomas Kenyon, chief health officer of Project Hope, the humanitarian NGO said it is just an example of the very difficult choices that had to be taken to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. According to him, "It was obviously crucial that we tackle the pandemic but we cannot forget that we have other killers in our midst. We are going to have to be innovative in addressing them."