Experts red-flag impact of Covid-19 on children, call for urgent reforms in child healthcare services

According to experts, children from low socioeconomic populations and those in already destitute or vulnerable situations suffer a harder blow

Experts red-flag impact of Covid-19 on children, call for urgent reforms in child healthcare services

A health worker takes a swab sample of a child for Covid-19 testing at a Government Hospital, amid concern over spread of coronavirus in Kolkata on Friday. PTI photo

Tribune News Service

Vijay Mohan

Chandigarh, January 14

Amidst the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the country, medical experts have red-flagged the adverse impact that Coronavirus has had on children because of an almost complete shutdown of vital child health and welfare services, and have urged the government to urgently initiate major reforms in child health care sector.

Decreased access to vital child healthcare services like newborn care and immunisation, nutritional deprivation, poverty, becoming orphans, mental impairment, and compromised learning are among fallouts listed by a paper published in the January issue of Medical Journal Armed Forces India.

“Children and young adolescents may not be directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of mortality and morbidity, but the burdens of other dimensions are heavily borne by them. Collaborative work of parents, psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatricians, and community health workers will be required to counter the post-Covid challenges in this vulnerable age group,” the paper titled “Impact of Covid-19 on child health and healthcare services,” states.

According to experts, children from low socioeconomic populations and those in already destitute or vulnerable situations suffer a harder blow as they are the ones who might be more impoverished or deprived of essential healthcare services. “Children seem to be the greatest victim in this universal crisis,” the paper observed.

Experts have asked policymakers to ensure affordable and equitable access to healthcare services with prioritisation for vulnerable children and their families, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, as the public health emergency which has grown tremendously in magnitude over time, continues.

Calling for an increase in public health investment so that safe and nutritious food is affordable and accessible for all, the paper has suggested scaling up social protection schemes. Providing information on nutrition and guidance on infant and child feeding, involvement of civil society organisations and communities in the monitoring of service provision, addressing livelihood and food supply challenges are some of the key issues to be addressed in order to build up a strong and resilient public health and nutrition system as a response to any public health emergency, the paper adds.

The government should ensure that there is no disruption of essential healthcare services, which are critical for child survival in terms of immunisation, child health, nutrition, education, etc. “Clear-cut guidelines should be issued by the respective state and district health authorities regarding the availability of routine immunisation services,” the paper stresses.

Pointing out that children and young adolescents need to be educated about Covid-19 and preventive behaviour, which will be helpful in the long run, experts have also advised mental health check-ups of children and students and projected the urgent requirement of coordinated and innovative mental healthcare delivery for children and adolescents.

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