Connect with us

Health & Wellness

Pandemic impact ‘tip of the iceberg’ after years of neglecting child mental health

Published

on

A seven-year-old child looks out the window in Istanbul, Turkey, during the COVID-19 emergency. Closure of schools, disruption of health services and suspension of nutrition programmes, due to the coronavirus pandemic, have affected hundreds of millions of children globally. Photo: UNICEF

COVID-19 has taken a toll on the mental health of children and young people, and impacts could be felt for many years to come, UN children’s agency, UNICEF, warned on Tuesday.

Even before the crisis, children and youth were already carrying the burden of mental health conditions and without significant investment in addressing them, according to the latest edition of its flagship report, the State of the World’s Children.

Globally, more than one in seven adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder, while almost 46,000 die annually from suicide, which is among the top five causes of death for this demographic.

Yet wide gaps persist between mental health needs and mental health funding, with only around two per cent of government health budgets going to mental health spending.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

The past 18 months have been hard on children, said Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director.

“With nationwide lockdowns and pandemic-related movement restrictions, children have spent indelible years of their lives away from family, friends, classrooms, play – key elements of childhood itself,” she said.  

“The impact is significant, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. Even before the pandemic, far too many children were burdened under the weight of unaddressed mental health issues.”

Ms. Fore regretted that too little government investment is being allocated to address these critical needs. “Not enough importance is being placed on the relationship between mental health and future life outcomes,” she said.

Lockdowns and losses

Preliminary findings from a UNICEF-backed study of children and adults in 21 countries, reveal the extent of the pandemic’s toll.  On average. one in five young people said they often feel depressed or have little interest in doing things.

As the pandemic enters a third year, the impact on children and young people’s mental health and well-being continues to weigh heavily, the agency stated.

Worldwide, at least one in seven children has been directly affected by lockdowns, and some 1.6 children have suffered some loss of education, according to latest data.

Angry and afraid

Many children said they feel afraid, angry and worried about the future, due to the disruptions in their routines, education and recreation, as well as concern surrounding family income and health.

An online study in China in early 2020, cited in the report, revealed that one-third of respondents reported feeling scared or anxious.  

Diagnosed mental disorders can significantly harm the health, education, life outcomes and earning capacity of children and young people.

While the impact on their lives cannot be calculated, UNICEF said new analysis from the London School of Economics estimates that mental disorders are costing countries nearly $390 billion a year in lost contribution to their economics.

Invest in change  

The State of the World’s Children report calls for governments and their partners to promote mental health for all children, adolescents and caregivers, and also to protect those in need of help while caring for the most vulnerable.

“Mental health is a part of physical health – we cannot afford to continue to view it as otherwise,” said Ms. Fore. “For far too long, in rich and poor countries alike, we have seen too little understanding and too little investment in a critical element of maximizing every child’s potential. This needs to change.”

Recommendations include urgent investment in all sectors, not just health, and scaling up evidence-based interventions, including parenting programmes that promote responsive and nurturing caregiving. Schools also should support mental health through quality services and positive relationships.

UNICEF also advocates for breaking the silence surrounding mental illness by addressing stigma, promoting better understanding of the issues, and taking the experiences of children and young people seriously.

Continue Reading
Comments

Health & Wellness

UN-backed COVAX mechanism delivers its 1 billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose

Published

on

photo © UNICEF/Aimable Twiringiyima

With a 1.1 million jab delivery in Rwanda this weekend, the World Health Organization’s multilateral initiative to provide equal access to vaccines for all reached the one billion milestone.

Along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Vaccine Alliance GAVI, and partners, WHO has led the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history with deliveries to 144 countries to date.

According to a press release published on Sunday, as of 13 January 2022, out of 194 countries members of WHO, 36 have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, and 88 less than 40%.

COVAX’s ambition was compromised by hoarding/stockpiling in rich countries, catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked. And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology, and know-how by pharmaceutical companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused”, the agency explained.

On 24 February 2021, Ghana became the first country in the world to receive vaccines through COVAX when 600,000 doses of the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to Accra. 

The work that remains

COVAX is currently working with governments, manufacturers and partners to ensure that when countries receive vaccines, they can get them to people quickly.

“The work that has gone into this (1 billion) milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains”, the UN’s health agency underscored.

They added that with updated vaccines in the pipeline, citizens should demand that governments and pharmaceutical companies share health tools globally and “bring an end to the death and destruction cycles of this pandemic, limit new variants and drive a global economic recovery”.

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched by WHO in April 2020 in response to the pandemic.

The ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. 

Continue Reading

Health & Wellness

WHO recommends two new drugs to treat patients with COVID-19 

Published

on

Around two million doses of Sotrovimab are being produced globally in the first half of 2022. © GlaxoSmithKline

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday reccommended two new drugs to treat patients with COVID-19, one for patients with critical disease, and another deemed effective for non-severe cases.

The first drug, baricitinib, is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor- a class of drugs used to treat autoimmune conditions, blood and bone marrow cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the WHO Guideline Development Group, it is “strongly recommended” for patients with severe or critical disease in combination with corticosteroids.

The group of international experts based their recommendation on “moderate certainty evidence” that it improves survival and reduces the need for ventilation.

There was no observed increase in adverse effects.

The experts note that it has a similar effectas other arthritis drugs called interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors. Because of that, when both drugs are available, they suggest choosing the best option based on cost, availability, and clinician experience.

It is not recommended to use both drugs at the same time.

The experts also advise against the use of two other JAK inhibitors (ruxolitinib and tofacitinib) for patients with severe or critical cases of COVID-19 infection.

According to them, trials undergone using these drugs failed to show any benefits arising using either drug,and suggested a possible increase in serious side effects with tofacitinib.

Non-severe cases

In the same update, WHO makes a conditional recommendation for the use of a monoclonal antibody known as sotrovimab in patients with non-severe cases.

According to them, the drug should only be administered to patients at the highest risk of hospitalisation. In those at lower risk, it onlyshowed “trivial benefits”. 

A similar recommendation has been madepreviously, for another monoclonal antibody drug, casirivimab-imdevimab, and the experts say there is insufficient data to recommend one over the other.

For both, the effectiveness against new variants, like Omicron, is still uncertain. 

The group will update their guidelines for monoclonal antibodies when more data becomes available.

Recommendations

These recommendations are based on new evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical infections.

Developed by WHO with the methodological support of MAGIC Evidence Ecosystem Foundation, the guidelinesprovide trustworthy guidance and help doctors make better decisions with their patients.

According to the agency, the guidelines are useful in fast moving research areas, because they allow researchers to update evidence summaries as new information becomes available.

The latest guidance also updates recommendations for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers and systemic corticosteroids for patients with severe or critical COVID-19; conditional recommendations for the use of casirivimab-imdevimab (another monoclonal antibody treatment) in selected patients; and against the use of convalescent plasma, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, regardless of disease severity.

Continue Reading

Health & Wellness

Omicron fuels record weekly COVID-19 cases, but deaths ‘stable’

Published

on

Fuelled by Omicron, more than 15 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported around the world last week, by far the most cases reported in a single seven day period, the World Health Organization (WHO) informed on Wednesday. 

Briefing reporters in Geneva, the UN health agency chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the “huge spike” is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries. 

Despite the number of cases, the weekly reported deaths have “remained stable” since October last year, Tedros added, at an average of 48,000. The number of patients being hospitalized is also increasing in most countries, but it is not at the level seen in previous waves.

He told reporters this is possibly due to the reduced severity of Omicron, and widespread immunity from vaccination or previous infection.

‘50 thousand deaths too many’

For the WHO chief, while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for those who are unvaccinated.

Almost 50 thousand deaths a week is 50 thousand deaths too many”, Tedros said. “Learning to live with this virus does not mean we can, or should, accept this number of deaths.”

For him, the world cannot “allow this virus a free ride” when so many people around the world remain unvaccinated.

In Africa, for example, more than 85 per cent of people are yet to receive a single dose of vaccine.

“We cannot end the acute phase of the pandemic unless we close this gap”, he said. 

Making progress

Tedros then listed some progress towards reaching the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of the population of every country by the middle of this year. 

In December, COVAX shipped more than double the number of doses it distributed in November. In the coming days, the initiative should ship its one billionth vaccine dose. 

Some of the supply constraints from last year are also starting to ease, Tedros said, but there’s still have a long way to go. 

So far, 90 countries have still not reached the 40 per cent target, and 36 of those countries have vaccinated less than 10 per cent of their populations.

New vaccines

Tedros also highlighted an interim statement from the WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition, released on Tuesday, stressing that further vaccines are needed that have a greater impact on preventing infection. 

Until such vaccines are developed, the experts explained, the composition of current vaccines may need to be updated. 

The Group also said that a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses is “unlikely to be sustainable.”

A heavy toll

According to Tedros, the overwhelming majority of people admitted to hospitals around the world are unvaccinated.

At the same time, while the immunizations remain very effective at preventing severe disease and death, they do not fully prevent transmission.

“More transmission means more hospitalizations, more deaths, more people off work, including teachers and health workers, and more risk of another variant emerging that is even more transmissible and more deadly than Omicron”, Tedros explained. 

The sheer number of cases also means more pressure on already overburdened and exhausted health workers.

A study published last year showed that more than one in four health workers have experienced mental health issues during the pandemic. Data from several countries also show that many have considered leaving or have left their jobs.

Pregnant women

On Tuesday, WHO hosted a global webinar, attended by clinicians from around the world, on the clinical management of the virus during pregnancy, childbirth and the early postnatal period. 

As stated earlier in the pandemic, pregnant women are not at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but if they are infected, they are at higher risk for severe disease.

That’s why it’s vital that pregnant women in all countries have access to vaccines to protect their own lives, and those of their babies”, Tedros said. 

The agency chief also called for pregnant women to be included in clinical trials for new treatments and vaccines. 

He also stressed that, fortunately, mother to baby transmission in utero or during birth is very rare, and no active virus has been identified in breast milk. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia2 hours ago

India’s open invitation to a nuclear Armageddon

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier...

East Asia4 hours ago

The role of CPC in supporting leadership schools in democratic countries

The Department of International Communication is officially under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China “CPC”, known by...

Development8 hours ago

Guterres Calls on Private Sector to Help Developing Countries with Post-Pandemic Recovery

In a special address at the virtual World Economic Forum Davos Agenda 2022 on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres...

NarendraModi NarendraModi
Development10 hours ago

Modi Urges All Countries to Embrace Sustainable Lifestyles

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India used his address to the Davos Agenda 2022 to call on all countries to...

Finance13 hours ago

China: $1.9 Trillion Boost and 88M Jobs by 2030 Possible with Nature-Positive Solutions

Nearly $9 trillion, two-thirds of China’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is at risk of disruption from nature loss. Making...

Health & Wellness15 hours ago

UN-backed COVAX mechanism delivers its 1 billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose

With a 1.1 million jab delivery in Rwanda this weekend, the World Health Organization’s multilateral initiative to provide equal access...

Development17 hours ago

Xi Jinping Calls for Greater Global Cooperation to Tackle Common Challenges

President Xi Jinping of China called for stronger international cooperation in overcoming shared global challenges including defeating COVID-19, revitalizing the...

Trending