Pandemic could unravel decades of progress in health and education in South Asia, Unicef warns

The pandemic is undoing decades of advances improving the health and education of children across South Asia, the United Nations has warned.

Hundreds of thousands of children face life-threatening malnutrition, or disease as immunisations and health services are disrupted by the spread of the new coronavirus.

As schools have closed down, nearly half a billion children have had to rely on remote learning in communities where often electricity, let alone the internet, is scarce.

The UN’s children’s charity, UNICEF, said in total urgent action was needed to safeguard the futures of 600 million in the region.

“The side-effects of the pandemic across South Asia, including the lockdown and other measures, have been damaging for children in numerous ways,” said Jean Gough, the charity’s director in the region.

“But the longer-term impact of the economic crisis on children will be on a different scale entirely. Without urgent action now, Covid-19 could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation.”

Immunization, nutrition and other vital health services have been severely disrupted, potentially threatening the lives of up to 459,000 children and mothers over the next six months, the charity estimates.

A survey in Sri Lanka for example found that three-families-in-10 had cut back the amount they ate.

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