Another global health crisis in offing, World Bank warns

A World Bank study suggests the still uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic could trigger a “secondary” global health crisis – a possible increase in child and maternal deaths.

An international consortium has warned diverting the scarce healthcare resources of developing countries to the rapidly expanding COVID-19 pandemic could see a 45 percent jump in child and maternal mortality before the end of the year, an international health consortium has warned.

Unless poorer nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America get a rapid infusion of drugs, medical oxygen, protective equipment and on-the-ground assistance, the global South is likely to see 1.2 million children and 57,000 mothers die over the next six months, according to a study under review by The Lancet Global Health.

The new coronavirus outbreak “could reverse decades of progress,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, global director for health, nutrition and population at the World Bank and director of the Global Financing Facility.

“If routine healthcare is disrupted – as a result of unavoidable shocks, health system collapse, or intentional choices in response to the pandemic – the increase in child and maternal deaths will be devastating,” the authors said in a draft submitted for peer review.

While Europe and North America have felt the brunt of the pandemic, with some two million confirmed cases out of a world total of 2.6 million, lockdowns have slowed its spread on these continents even as the virus picks up pace elsewhere.

In Africa, the week leading to April 21 saw a 43 percent jump in COVID-19 cases and a 38 percent increase in the number of COVID-19-related deaths, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

Pressure on food supply

The coronavirus outbreak and government policies to limit the disease could disrupt food supply chains, potentially threatening food availability, even as prices remain stable in 2020, the World Bank cautioned.

Prices of agricultural commodities are likely to hold up better than oil, metals and other industrial materials that have seen demand plummet amid lockdowns and other measures to combat COVID-19, the World Bank said in a report.

“Agriculture prices are less tied to economic growth, and saw only minor declines in the first quarter of 2020, except for rubber, which is used in transportation,” the report said.

But while prices are expected to remain “broadly stable” this year “as production levels and stocks of most staple foods are at record highs,” the bank warned that producers could “face disruptions to the trade and distribution of inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and labor availability.” 

Pompeo slams China     

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged Thursday (Friday in Manila) that China might have known of the new coronavirus as early as November, renewing accusations that Beijing has not been transparent.

“You’ll recall that the first cases of this were known by the Chinese government maybe as early as November, but certainly by mid-December,” Pompeo said in an interview.

“They were slow to identify this for anyone in the world, including the World Health Organization,” he told conservative radio host Larry O’Connor.

Pompeo said the United States still wanted more information from China including the original sample of the SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in the metropolis of Wuhan.

President Donald Trump’s administration has harshly criticized both China and the WHO, blaming them for not stopping the illness that has killed more than 180,000 people worldwide.

50,000 US death toll

The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 50,000 people in the United States, after one of the deadliest days of the pandemic which saw 3,176 deaths, according to a tally Thursday from Johns Hopkins University.

The deaths were recorded in the 24 hours up to 8:30 p.m. (0030 GMT Friday, 8 a.m. Friday in Manila), bringing the overall coronavirus death toll in the United States to 49,759, according to the Baltimore-based university.

The US, the worst-hit country in the world, now has 866,646 confirmed cases of coronavirus, up 26,971 from the previous day.

Due to a lack of testing, the actual number of infections is likely to be much higher.

UAE eases lockdown

The United Arab Emirates decided on Thursday to reopen malls, cafes and restaurants and ease lockdown restrictions imposed last month to prevent the spread of coronavirus on the occasion of Ramadan.

Curfew will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. while malls will be allowed to operate for 10 hours daily starting from midday on Friday, the first day of the Muslim fasting month, an official statement cited by the state-run WAM news agency said.

Supermarkets, food outlets, groceries, and pharmacies will be allowed to operate round the clock, but mosques will remain shut during the holy month, the statement said.

UAE has reported 8,756 cases of coronavirus and 56 deaths. 

Topics: World Bank , coronavirus pandemic , global health crisis , World Health Organization
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