Geneva Palais Briefing Note on COVID-19 in South Asia

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COVID – Region Assessment: South Asia

UNICEF News note
Geneva Palais Briefing Note on COVID-19 in South Asia
This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, George Laryea-Adjei – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

GENEVA/KATHMANDU, 25 May 2021 – “The scenes we are witnessing in South Asia are unlike anything our region has seen before. Family members of patients are carrying oxygen cylinders inside hospitals, risking their own lives in hopes of saving a loved one. Exhausted health workers are working sixteen-hour days, unable to pay individual attention to every patient under their care. We are faced with a real possibility of fragile health systems collapsing.

“South Asia is home to almost 2 billion people, and more than a quarter of the world’s children. The region now accounts for half of known new infections globally. Over three new COVID-19 infections are being recorded every second. Mortality in the region has risen sharply, with one person dying every 17 seconds from COVID-19.

“The sheer scale and speed of this new surge of COVID-19 is outstripping countries’ abilities to provide life-saving treatment.

“Just last week, India recorded the highest number of daily deaths ever in the history of the COVID-19 pandemic: 4,529. “Neighboring Nepal has experienced case positivity rates as high as 47 per cent. In Banke district, there are reports of nurses taking care of 20 critically ill patients on their own.
“Sri Lanka is recording new highs in COVID-19 cases and deaths on a daily basis. 88% of hospital beds are currently in use.

“Maldives is witnessing an unprecedented peak in cases, particularly in its capital, Malé. Its health system is under severe strain and the government has had to increase bed capacity in medical facilities. “Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bhutan could all face similar devastating surges.

“We need to act fast to save lives now. But we also need to do everything within our power to keep the critical health care services that children and mothers so heavily rely on running.

“During the first wave of the pandemic, an estimated 228,000 children and 11,000 mothers across South Asia died due to severe disruptions to essential health services, such as routine immunization, care during pregnancy and childbirth, and treatment for pneumonia and malnutrition. With a surge that is four times the size of the first, we are facing a real possibility of a severe spike in child and maternal deaths in South Asia.

“We simply cannot let this happen…