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COVID-19: Protracted Crises, Worsening Inequalities - Indirect Negative Health Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Protracted Crises

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Some early warnings on the negative indirect health impacts of Covid-19, including modelling studies, have been published over the last 12 months. Emerging patterns show that Covid-19 is worsening existing inequalities, particularly where there are social and economic disparities, and is resulting in an excess burden of disease. However, overall, data is lacking on the indirect health impacts, particularly in areas of protracted crisis. Moreover, although we can make predictions, it is anticipated that some indirect health impacts of the pandemic will not be apparent for many years.

In 2021, 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection, according to UN OCHA, an increase from 168 million in 2020.

Based on the literature review and research undertaken for this report, the following areas have been identified as key areas where the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted health:

  1. Disruption of established vaccination campaigns and programs, with increased risk of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria

  2. Negative impacts on child and maternal health

  3. Worsening sexual and gender-based violence

  4. Negative impacts on mental health

  5. Exacerbation of existing barriers to healthcare, including access and provision

Studies focusing on low- and middle-income settings suggest:

  • Paused measles campaigns in 26 countries more than 94 million children are at risk of missing measles vaccines.

  • Disruption of routine health care and decreased access to food Out of 118 countries up to 192,830 additional deaths of children under-5-years and 9,450 additional maternal deaths per month.

  • Disruption of health service delivery HIV, TB and malaria services disrupted, potentially doubling annual death tolls. AIDS related deaths could be set back to 2008 levels, which means 534,000 additional deaths.

  • Disruption or halted critical mental health services in most countries worldwide Increased gap between demand and availability of mental health services