04/13/2020
More than 117 million children at risk of missing out on measles vaccines, as COVID-19 surges
https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/more-117-million-children-risk-missing-out-measles-vaccines-covid-19-surges
 “As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, over 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on receiving life-saving measles vaccine. Measles immunization campaigns in 24 countries have already been delayed; more will be postponed. “During this challenging period, the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) expresses solidarity with families, communities, governments and emergency responders and joins our global immunization and health partners, including those within Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in our collective focus and fight against the threat of COVID-19. The pandemic sweeping the globe requires a coordinated effort and commitment of resources to ensure frontline health workers around the world are protected, as they face and respond to this new threat. At the same time, we must also champion efforts to protect essential immunization services, now and for the future. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new  guidelines  endorsed by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization -- to help countries to sustain immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines recommend that governments temporarily pause preventive immunization campaigns where there is no active outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. M&RI partners, which include the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation and WHO, strongly agree with these recommendations. We also urge countries to continue routine immunization services, while ensuring the safety of communities and health workers. The recommendations also ask governments to undertake a careful risk-benefit analysis when deciding whether to delay vaccination campaigns in response to outbreaks, with the possibility of postponement where risks of COVID-19 transmission are deemed unacceptably high. “If the difficult choice to pause vaccination is made due to the spread of COVID-19, we urge leaders to intensify efforts to track unvaccinated children, so that the most vulnerable populations can be provided with measles vaccines as soon as it becomes possible to do so. While we know there will be many demands on health systems and frontline workers during and beyond the threat of COVID-19, delivering all immunization services, including measles vaccines, is essential to saving lives that would otherwise be lost to vaccine-preventable diseases. “The M&RI supports the need to protect communities and health workers from COVID-19 through a pause of mass campaigns, where risks of the disease are high. However, this should not mean that children permanently miss out. Urgent efforts must be taken now at local, national, regional and global levels to prepare to close the immunity gaps that the measles virus will exploit, by ensuring that vaccines are available and that they reach children and vulnerable populations, as quickly as possible, to keep them safe. “Despite having a safe and effective vaccine for over 50 years, measles cases surged over recent years and claimed more than 140,000 lives in 2018, mostly of children and babies – all of which were preventable. Against this already dangerous backdrop, preventive and responsive measles vaccination campaigns have now been paused or postponed in 24 countries to help avert further spread of COVID-19. Campaigns expected to take place later in 2020 in an additional 13 countries may not be implemented. Together, more than 117 million children in 37 countries, many of whom live in regions with ongoing measles outbreaks, could be impacted by the suspension of scheduled immunization activities. This staggering number does not include the number of infants that may not be vaccinated because of the effect of COVID-19 on routine immunization services.  Children younger than 12 months of age are more likely to die from measles complications, and if the circulation of measles virus is not stopped, their risk of exposure to measles will increase daily.   “The M&RI salutes the heroism of health and emergency workers across the globe, and we recognize the vital role they play in delivering clear, trusted information, as well as preventive and supportive care within their communities. We must invest in health workers and ensure they are protected from infection and empowered as part of sustainable and functioning primary health systems. They are the first line of defense against global epidemics. We also recognize the role of parents and caregivers in ensuring their children are vaccinated by following physical distancing recommendations in line with national guidance. Finally, we call on countries and local leaders to implement effective communication strategies to engage communities, ensure supply and demand for vaccination remains strong, and help assure a healthy life for every child especially in this challenging time.” #####  
09/03/2020
UNICEF to lead procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccines in world’s largest and fastest ever operation of its kind
https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/unicef-lead-procurement-and-supply-covid-19-vaccines-worlds-largest-and-fastest-ever
 – UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply COVID-19 vaccines in what could possibly be the world’s largest and fastest ever procurement and supply of vaccines, as part of the global vaccine plan of the  COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility)  led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. With several vaccine candidates showing promise, UNICEF, in collaboration with the  PAHO Revolving Fund , will lead efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Facility for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries whose vaccine purchases will be supported by the mechanism through the  Gavi COVAX AMC  as well as a buffer stockpile for humanitarian emergencies. In addition, UNICEF will also serve as procurement coordinator to support procurement by  80 higher-income economies , which have expressed their intent to participate in the COVAX Facility and would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets. UNICEF will undertake these efforts in close collaboration with WHO, Gavi, CEPI, PAHO, World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners. The COVAX Facility is open to all countries to ensure that no country is left without access to a future COVID-19 vaccine. “This is an all-hands on deck partnership between governments, manufacturers and multilateral partners to continue the high-stakes fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “In our collective pursuit of a vaccine, UNICEF is leveraging its unique strengths in vaccine supply to make sure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to the initial doses when they are available.” UNICEF is the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than  2 billion doses of vaccines  annually for  routine immunization  and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. It is the main procurement partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which over the last 20 years has reached  more than 760 million children with life-saving vaccines,  preventing more than 13 million deaths. UNICEF will use its market shaping and procurement expertise to coordinate the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccines for the COVAX Facility. This could potentially double the agency’s overall vaccine procurement throughput volume in 2021 alone. In response to an  expression of interest  that UNICEF issued in June on behalf of the COVAX Facility, 28 manufacturers with production facilities in 10 countries shared their annual production plans for COVID-19 vaccines through 2023. According to the timelines the manufacturers indicated, the span from development to production could be one of the fastest scientific and manufacturing leaps in history. A  UNICEF market assessment , developed by compiling information submitted by vaccine manufacturers along with publicly available data, revealed that manufacturers are willing to collectively produce unprecedented quantities of vaccines over the coming 1-2 years. However, manufacturers signaled that investments to support such large-scale production of doses would be highly dependent on, among other things, whether clinical trials are successful, advance purchase agreements are put in place, funding is confirmed, and regulatory and registration pathways are streamlined. This assessment also illustrates, among other things, manufacturers’ responsiveness to the COVAX Facility’s design and objectives—a key pillar of the  ACT-Accelerator initiative , which is a new, groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate the development and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to address the COVID-19 pandemic across countries of all income levels. A key next step will be ensuring self-financing economies sign up for the COVAX Facility by 18 September, which will allow COVAX to support early, at-risk investments in increasing manufacturing capacity on a broad scale, through advance purchase agreements. Currently under development by WHO, the COVAX allocation framework will guide how and where UNICEF, PAHO and other procurers working on behalf of participating countries supply COVID-19 vaccines that are secured by the Facility. Initial dose allocations are expected to be scaled to enable countries to vaccinate health and social workers, followed by subsequent tranches of vaccine doses that would enable participating countries to vaccinate populations at higher risk of critical COVID-19 disease. “UNICEF has been critical partner in the Alliance’s success over the last two decades – helping us reach more than half the world’s population with life-saving vaccines,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This expertise and experience will be important in ensuring that COVAX – as a global effort to procure and deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, on an accelerated timeframe, and at an unprecedented scale – can protect the most at-risk, wherever they may be in the world. Together we can work to end the acute stage of this pandemic, including its devastating impact on individuals, communities, and economies.” UNICEF, Gavi, WHO, and PAHO have started critical preparatory work for country vaccine readiness in collaboration with partners and national governments including: Working with device manufacturers to plan availability of safe injection equipment and cold chain requirements for the vaccine; Developing guidance with WHO and trainings to support vaccination policies and appropriate handling, store and distribution of the vaccines; Working with manufacturers on freight and logistics solutions to get vaccine doses to countries as quickly and safely as possible once they are allocated; Supporting countries in planning for vaccine delivery, including targeting those most at risk and transport and storage at point of service delivery; Ramping up efforts with civil society and other local partners to ensure that people are well-informed about the COVID-19 vaccination process and putting measures in place to enhance trust and tackle misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. UNICEF Supply UNICEF/UNI325740/Montico
09/10/2020
COVID-19 could reverse decades of progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths, agencies warn
https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/covid-19-could-reverse-decades-progress-toward-eliminating-preventable-child-deaths
– The number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019 – down to 5.2 million from 12.5 million in 1990,  according to new mortality estimates  released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Bank Group. Since then, however, surveys by UNICEF and WHO reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress. “The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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 re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.” Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birthweight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives. Now countries worldwide are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services, such as health checkups, vaccinations and prenatal and post-natal care, due to resource constraints and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting COVID-19. A  UNICEF survey  conducted over the summer across 77 countries found that almost 68 per cent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunization services. In addition, 63 per cent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 per cent in post-natal care. A  recent WHO survey  based on responses from 105 countries revealed that 52 per cent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 per cent in services for management of malnutrition. Health interventions such as these are critical for stopping preventable newborn and child deaths. For example, women who receive care by professional midwives trained according  to internationals standards are 16 per cent less likely to lose their baby and 24 per cent less likely to experience pre-term birth,  according to WHO . "The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday than any time in history is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Now, we must not let the COVID-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations. Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.” Based on the responses from countries that participated in the UNICEF and WHO surveys, the most commonly cited reasons for health service disruptions included parents avoiding health centers for fear of infection; transport restrictions; suspension or closure of services and facilities; fewer healthcare workers due to diversions or fear of infection due to shortages in personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves; and greater financial difficulties. Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen are among the hardest hit countries. Seven of the nine countries had high child mortality rates of more than 50 deaths per 1000 live births among children under five in 2019. In Afghanistan, where 1 in 17 children died before reaching age 5 in 2019, the Ministry of Health reported a significant reduction in visits to health facilities. Out of fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus, families are de-prioritizing pre- and post-natal care, adding to the risk faced by pregnant women and newborn babies. Even before COVID-19, newborns were at highest risk of death. In 2019, a newborn baby died every 13 seconds. Moreover, 47 per cent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period, up from 40 per cent in 1990. With severe disruptions in essential health services, newborn babies could be at much higher risk of dying. For example, in Cameroon, where 1 out of every 38 newborns died in 2019, the UNICEF survey reported an estimated 75 per cent disruptions in services for essential newborn care, antenatal check-ups, obstetric care and post-natal care. In May, initial modelling by Johns Hopkins University showed that  almost 6,000 additional children  could die per day due to disruptions due to COVID-19. These reports and surveys highlight the need for urgent action to restore and improve childbirth services and antenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies, including having skilled health workers to care for them at birth. Working with parents to assuage their fears and reassure them is also important. “The COVID-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “It is essential to protect life-saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality. We will continue to work with governments and partners to reinforce healthcare systems to ensure mothers and children get the services they need.” "The new report demonstrates the ongoing progress worldwide in reducing child mortality,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “While the report highlights the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on interventions that are critical for children’s health, it also draws attention to the need to redress the vast inequities in a child's prospects for survival and good health.” ###### A child and his mother while waiting to receive medical care UNICEF/UNI347480/Poveda
09/03/2020
World's richest countries grappling with children’s reading and math skills, mental well-being and obesity
https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/worlds-richest-countries-grappling-childrens-reading-and-math-skills-mental-well
On average 40 per cent of children across all OECD and EU countries do not have basic reading and mathematics skills by age 15. Children in Bulgaria, Romania and Chile are the least proficient in these skills. Estonia, Ireland and Finland the most proficient. In most countries, at least 1 in 5 children lack confidence in their social skills to make new friends. Children in Chile, Japan and Iceland are the least confident in this area.   The report also contains data on clear areas of progress in child well-being. On average, 95 per cent of pre-school aged children are now enrolled in organized learning programmes, and the number of young people aged 15-19 not in education, employment or training has declined in 30 out of 37 countries. Yet, these important gains are at risk of falling back due to the impact of COVID-19. Countries are also ranked based on their policies that support child well-being and other factors including the economy, society and environment. Norway, Iceland and Finland have the highest-ranking policies and context to support child well-being. On average, countries spend less than 3 per cent of their GDP on family and child policies. “In times of crisis and calm, families need supportive governments and workplaces in order to raise the next generation of happy and healthy citizens,” said Fayaz King, Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF. “An investment in children is a direct investment in our future.” Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in the first half of 2020 most of the countries covered in the report kept schools closed for more than 100 days while strict stay-at-home policies were also implemented. The report notes that loss of family members and friends, anxiety, stay-at-home restrictions, lack of support, school closures, the balancing of work and family life, poor access to healthcare, combined with the economic loss caused by the pandemic are catastrophic for children’s wellbeing, affecting their mental and physical health, and their development. Before the COVID-19 outbreak the average relative child poverty rate across the 41 countries was 20 per cent. With GDP expected to fall over a two-year period in almost all of these countries, unless governments take immediate remedial actions child poverty will rise. “As the economic, educational and social fallout of the pandemic continues to take hold, without concerted effort, there will be a worsening, devastating impact on the well-being of today’s children, their families and the societies they live in,” said Olsson. “But these risks do not have to become the reality, if governments take decisive action now to protect children’s well-being.” On the basis of the report and these recent developments UNICEF is calling for the following steps to protect and improve child wellbeing: Take decisive action to reduce income inequality and poverty and ensure that all children have access to the resources they need. Rapidly address the serious gap in mental health services for children and adolescents. Expand family-friendly policies to improve work-family balance, especially access to high-quality, flexible and affordable early-years childcare. Strengthen efforts to protect children from preventable diseases, including reversing recent falls in measles immunization. Improve COVID-19 policies that support families with children and ensure budgets that support child well-being are protected entirely from austerity measures.   ###