United Nations: India is projected to record the highest number of births in the nine months since coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March, with more than 20 million babies expected to be born in the country between March and December, according to a top UN body.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that pregnant mothers and babies born during the pandemic across the world were threatened by strained health systems and disruptions in services.
An estimated 116 million babies will be born under the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF said Wednesday, ahead of Mother’s Day, observed May 10. These babies are projected to be born up to 40 weeks after COVID-19 was recognised as a pandemic March 11.
The highest numbers of births in the nine months since the pandemic was declared are expected to occur in India, where 20.1 million babies are projected to be born between March 11 and December 16. Other countries with the expected highest numbers of births during this period are China (13.5 million), Nigeria (6.4 million), Pakistan (5 million) and Indonesia (four million), it said.
“Most of these countries had high neonatal mortality rates even before the pandemic and may see these levels increase with COVID-19 conditions,” UNICEF said.
It is estimated that there will be 24.1 million births in India for the January-December 2020 period.
UNICEF warned that COVID-19 containment measures can disrupt life-saving health services such as childbirth care, putting millions of pregnant mothers and their babies at great risk.
Even wealthier countries are affected by this crisis. In the US, the sixth highest country in terms of expected number of births, over 3.3 million babies are projected to be born between March 11 and December 16.
“New mothers and newborns will be greeted by harsh realities,” UNICEF said, adding they include global containment measures such as lockdowns and curfews; health centres overwhelmed with response efforts; supply and equipment shortages; and a lack of sufficient skilled birth attendants as health workers, including midwives, are redeployed to treat COVID-19 patients.
“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it were. They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centres for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
“It is hard to imagine how much the coronavirus pandemic has recast motherhood.” Fore said.
UNICEF said its analysis was based on data from World Population Prospects 2019 of the UN Population Division.