India is expected to record the highest number of births in the next nine months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, according to a top UN body.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated number of 20.1 million babies are projected to be born between March 11 and December 16.
The next four countries with the expected highest number of births in the next nine months since the pandemic declaration includes China (13.5 million), Nigeria (6.4 million), Pakistan (5 million) and Indonesia (4 million).
According to UNICEF, most of these countries had high neonatal mortality rates even before the pandemic and may see these levels increase with COVID-19 conditions.
An estimated 116 million babies will be born under the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF said on Thursday, ahead of Mother’s Day, observed on May 10.
These babies are projected to be born up to 40 weeks after COVID-19 was recognised as a pandemic on March 11, it added.
“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it was. They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become – a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centres for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
UNICEF warned that COVID-19 containment measures can disrupt life-saving health services such as childbirth care, putting millions of pregnant mothers and their babies at great risk.
Issuing an urgent appeal to governments and health care providers to save lives in the coming months, UNICEF said efforts must be made to help pregnant women receive antenatal checkups, skilled delivery care, postnatal care services, and care related to COVID-19 as needed.
According to UNICEF, an estimated 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns died every year, or 1 every 11 seconds, mostly of preventable causes.
UNICEF called for immediate investment in health workers with the right training, who are equipped with the right medicines to ensure every mother and newborn is cared for by a safe pair of hands to prevent and treat complications during pregnancy, delivery and birth.