UNICEF on Friday said it urgently requires $164 million in medical support for South Asia amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The fund will be used for procuring oxygen and testing supplies, medical equipment, personal protective equipment and infection prevention and control material “to help save lives amid a deadly wave of COVID-19 across South Asia,” the UN agency said in a statement.
Referring to the worsening pandemic situation in the region, the statement added that over three new COVID-19 infections are being recorded every second, while the mortality is rising sharply with more than three people dying every minute.
Underlining the situation in India as most devastating, it said: “Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bhutan could all face similar devastating surges.”
“Nepal has experienced case positivity rates as high as 47 percent; Sri Lanka and the Maldives are recording new highs in COVID-19 cases and deaths on a daily basis; and hospitals in the capital of the Maldives are reaching full capacity.”
During the first wave of the pandemic, an estimated 228,000 children and 11,000 mothers across South Asia died “due to severe disruptions in essential health services,” the statement said, adding that the current condition is more deplorable.
“We’re now looking at a surge that is four times the size of the first. We need to do everything within our power to prevent and treat COVID-19, while keeping the critical health care services that children and mothers so heavily depend on running,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF director for South Asia.
He also warned of possible collapse in the fragile health system of the region of almost 2 billion people. “Hospitals are overwhelmed, there is an acute lack of oxygen and other critical medical supplies.”
The UN body emphasized on more vaccination campaigns in South Asia. “In almost all countries in the region, with the exception of the Maldives and Bhutan, fewer than 1 in 10 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The statement also recommended reaching families with more information; increasing access to safe water and sanitation; cash assistance for the most vulnerable families; supporting efforts to keep children learning, including through engaging the public and private sectors; and providing mental health and protection support for children and young people directly affected by the pandemic.