UNICEF estimated 228,000 deaths among South Asian children in 2020 due to cuts in the availability and use of public health services, not lockdowns.
Over the years, South Asia has substantially improved maternal and child health in recent decades. However, like the rest of the world, South Asia suffered a significant setback in healthcare during 2020. South Asia dealt with direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including healthcare and education.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published a report in 2020 about the direct and indirect effects COIVD-19 had in South Asian countries. The report focused on the six most populated countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The most severe indirect effects were extensive delays in the supply and usage of routine services, such as essential health and nutrition services.
UNICEF only estimated about 228,000 deaths among children under the age of five in South Asian countries by the end of 2020, compared to 2019. It was attributed to the lack of essential services and saturation of the health care system. In Bangladesh and Nepal, the number of young children treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) fell by over 80 percent. UNICEF's report also expected a 16 percent rise in maternal deaths, with 7,750 additional deaths in India and over 2,000 in Pakistan, totaling around 11,000 additional maternal deaths in South Asia.
Many media outlets have cited UNICEF's report. COVID-19 caused significant disruptions in the supply chain management of the healthcare system around the world. As a result, it led to many children not getting the essential treatment they needed.
Neither official reports have confirmed the exact death figures of children in South Asia due to public inconveniences and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor are the deaths linked directly to lockdowns by any governing bodies or credible media publications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.