By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: An estimate by World Bank researchers has shown that the economic decline accompanying Covid-19 may have caused over 267,000 infant deaths in low- and middle-income countries last year, more than a third of which occurred in India.

The researchers estimated 267,208 excess infant deaths in 128 countries, corresponding to a 6.8% increase in the total number of infant deaths expected in 2020 and underscored the vulnerability of infants to the negative income shocks such as those imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While efforts towards prevention and treatment of COVID-19 remain paramount, the global community should also strengthen social safety nets and assure continuity of essential health service,” the authors noted. 

At the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, modelling exercises had predicted that the interruption of essential health services will be severe and perhaps the world will experience 250000 to 1.15 million young child deaths in the first six months of the pandemic. 

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Recent studies indicate that barriers to access essential healthcare in low-income and middle-income countries are not just a theoretical concern documenting, for example, disruptions in immunisation services.  

Significantly, the latest analysis published in the British Medical Journal has highlighted that more than a third of the excess infant mortality — 99, 642 — is projected to be in India.

India has the highest number of annual births (242,38,000) as well as a particularly large projected economic shortfall of -17.3%, said the paper.

“Because of this, South Asia is the region with the highest expected excess infant mortality, although there are only eight countries included in the analysis,” it added.