Current status + progress
While the available evidence indicates the direct impact of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality to be very limited, the indirect effects stemming from strained health systems, household income loss, and disruptions to care-seeking and preventative interventions like vaccination may be substantial and widespread.
Experience with past epidemics like the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak1,2,3 and SARS4 has shown that indirect effects of an outbreak—e.g. medical supply chain disruptions, declining utilization and provision of health services, healthcare resource and personnel reallocation—can be severe, sometimes outpacing the direct impact of the outbreak itself. Moreover, many of these indirect mortality effects may not be apparent for some time after the pandemic recedes and may even reverberate for an extended period following the pandemic. In parts of West Africa, for example, measles deaths among children increased dramatically following the Ebola outbreak as immunizations were curtailed amid the epidemic5,6,7. Many of these indirect effects and the ability to mitigate them will also depend on country- and household-level resources as well as the existing strength of the healthcare system—thus the indirect impacts of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality are likely to vary considerably between and within countries.
Gains in child survival are dependent on the continued provision of essential health services to women and children around the world. While the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on economies, movement, and child health is still unknown, if life-saving interventions are disrupted, many more children could die of treatable and preventable conditions8. This is a call to not only invest in women and children by continuing to provide critical services and supplies, but also to provide the evidence base for sound and informed decision-making.
The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, led by UNICEF, is currently assessing the impact of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality and will incorporate these effects in future estimates where applicable. While UNICEF and its partners continue to monitor and report on this pandemic’s impact on children, please find below additional resources on COVID-19 and mortality. This list is to be updated as new resources become available.
Resources on COVID-19 and mortality
Latest update: 21 May 2020
Dashboards or databases on excess and COVID-19-related mortality
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control COVID-19 tracking
- European Monitoring of Excess Mortality for Public Health (EuroMOMO)
Pooled weekly total number of deaths in the data-providing EuroMOMO partners for the past 4½ years, in four age groups.
- MPIDR/INED COVID-19 cases and deaths by age and sex
- Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science Engineering COVID-19 data repository
Indirect deaths from COVID-19 pandemic
- Early Estimates of the Indirect Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Maternal and Child Mortality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Johns Hopkins University – Bloomberg School of Public Health
An analysis of potential health intervention disruptions in 118 low and middle-income countries (representing almost 98 per cent of global under-five deaths) using the LiST model indicates under-five deaths in those countries could increase substantially due to the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Explore the country-level results and health intervention disruption scenarios with this dashboard, read the explanatory note and watch the joint UNICEF-WHO webinar (presentations found here) on interpreting and using these estimates.
- Estimates of the Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Guttmacher Institute, New York.
This commentary explores the impact of COVID-19 on maternal and newborn health through coverage of essential pregnancy-related and newborn care interventions in mostly low and middle-income countries using the Lives Saved Tool.
- COVID-19 Aftershocks: Secondary Impacts Threaten More Children’s Lives Than Disease Itself: World Vision.
World Vision’s Aftershocks report considers what would happen if the devastating secondary impacts of the 2015-2016 Ebola outbreak on children were replicated in the 24 most fragile countries covered by the UN’s COVID-19 humanitarian appeal.
- Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Crisis: New York Times
- Stillbirth Alliance: Advice on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and pregnancy
- Healthy Newborn Network: COVID-19 Interim Guidance
- Revealing the Toll of COVID-19: A Technical Package for Rapid Mortality Surveillance and Epidemic Response
- The Lives Saved Tool (LiST): Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
LiST is a model that estimates the impact of changes in intervention coverage on child and maternal mortality in low- and middle-income countries. LiST can give researchers and policy makers critical information to assess the potential impact of health intervention policy or programs and can be used to conduct scenario-based projections to gage the impact of the reduction of intervention coverage due to COVID-19 on child and maternal mortality8.
- Elston JWT, Cartwright C, Ndumbi P, Wright J. The health impact of the 2014–15 Ebola outbreak. Public Health 2017; 143: 60–70.
- Sochas L, Channon AA, Nam S. Counting indirect crisis-related deaths in the context of a low-resilience health system: The case of maternal and neonatal health during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Health Policy Plan 2017; 32: iii32–9.
- Ribacke KJB, Saulnier DD, Eriksson A, Schreeb J von. Effects of the West Africa Ebola virus disease on health-care utilization – A systematic review. Front Public Heal 2016; 4: 1–12.
- Chang HJ, Huang N, Lee CH, Hsu YJ, Hsieh CJ, Chou YJ. The Impact of the SARS Epidemic on the Utilization of Medical Services: SARS and the Fear of SARS. Am J Public Health 2004; 94: 562–4.
- World Health Organization. Vaccination Must be Scaled up in Ebola-Affected Countries. 2015. [Last accessed on 2020 April 21]. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/vaccination-ebola-countries/en/
- Takahashi S, Metcalf CJ, Ferrari MJ, Moss WJ, Truelove SA, Tatem AJ, et al. Reduced vaccination and the risk of measles and other childhood infections post-Ebola. Science. 2015; 347:1240–2.
- World Health Organization. Liberia tackles measles as the Ebola epidemic comes to an end. June 2015. [Last accesed on 2020 April 21]. https://www.who.int/features/2015/measles-vaccination-liberia/en/
- Roberton T, Carter ED, Chou VB, Stegmuller A, Jackson BD, Tam Y, Sawadogo-Lewis T, Walker N. Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study. The Lancet Global Health. Published: May 12, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30229-1