The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the growth and development of children in the Americas, where the virus outbreak is in its third year.
PAHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne has warned that millions of children are missing out on routine vaccinations.
She told a news briefing last week that, as a result, countries are at risk of losing two decades of immunisation.
“Countries are seeing outbreaks of diseases that for years had been under control,” she said.
The PAHO Director explained that the diseases included measles in Brazil and diphtheria in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
As more people of all ages are becoming infected, the PAHO Director highlighted that while hospitalisations and severe cases are more frequent among children with preexisting diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, most of these children recover.
At the same time, however, children continue to miss out on their regular doctors’ visits, and many remain out of the classroom, jeopardizing their social, mental, and physical wellbeing.
“For some children, schools are safe havens to learn, to socialise, to receive mental health support and to get a nutritious meal,” Dr. Etienne said.
She called on Ministries of health, education, and social protection to work together “to bring as many of our children as possible back to school safely.”
The PAHO Director also asked parents and caretakers to bring their children to routine medical appointments and urged countries to ensure these services are “open and available.”
Last week, countries reported the highest weekly cases since the pandemic began – more than 8 million.
Deaths also increased by 37% from the previous week, reaching 18,000.