WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic threatens decades of progress in reducing preventable deaths in children worldwide, a new United Nations/World Bank paper warns.

The paper said that preventable deaths in children younger than 5 years fell from 12.5 million in 1990 to just over 5 million in 2019, the lowest number on record, CNN reported. But fewer resources and fears about contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic could reverse gains in child and maternal health care services and put millions of lives at risk, according to the paper.

A UNICEF survey of 77 countries over the summer showed that 68 percent had disruptions in childhood checkups and vaccinations, and a World Health Organization survey of 105 countries revealed that 52 percent had interruptions in medical services for sick children and 51 percent had disruptions in malnutrition programs, CNN reported.

“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a news release, CNN reported. “When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of COVID-19. Without urgent investments to restart disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under 5, especially newborns, could die.”

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