Table 6

Collateral damage of COVID-19 on child health

Key messagesWhy is it important?Current challengesRecommendations
Children have disproportionally been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with low direct mortality, but high morbidity and mortality due to the multiple collateral effects of the health crisis.
This unprecedented crisis offers an opportunity to change our ways of thinking, deploy and maintain our activities, rethink support models and define future preparedness and responses.
The pandemic has impacted child health through increases in poverty, loss of education, food insecurity, violence as well as increased strain on health systems and reduction in access to health services.

These collateral effects of the pandemic have been most striking in resource-limited settings where increase in child mortality is a major concern.

Preventive services like vaccination and nutrition programmes have been affected most by suspension or delay.

The tremendous detrimental effects of the pandemic on child health are still unfolding and our concern as MSF should be high.
  • The focus on the direct impact of COVID-19 has had a huge and overlooked negative impact on children through the reduction and suspension of essential healthcare services.

  • The risk of weakening essential services continues through resurgence of the pandemic. There is a potential extra burden related to vaccination programmes in poorly resourced health systems, where healthcare workers and resources will be repurposed to deliver those vaccines at the expense of critical childhood services.

  • Adapt and innovate to maintain routine services, such as continuum of nutritional screening and vaccination.

  • Witness, document and report collateral effects of the pandemic on children, real time and in retrospect.

  • Maintain the preventive and curative paediatric regular services to limit an increase in child morbidity and mortality.

  • Boost the community healthcare activities in MSF strategies as an essential piece of the continuum of care and as an efficient way of assuring health access.

  • Be flexible and innovative in order to adjust our healthcare activities according to the situation and to provide proper technical medical support to the field teams.

  • Consider COVID-19 pandemic as a transformative opportunity to develop new approaches and implement new and practical tools needed in the field reality.

  • Advocate at national and international levels for the continuity of routine preventive and curative paediatric and neonatal activities in this pandemic.

  • MSF, Médecins Sans Frontières.