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healthcare | IST

Focus on COVID pushes childhood diseases to backburner

It has been more than a year and a half since the onset of COVID-19, the focus on the pandemic has pushed other diseases to the backburner. This has also resulted in a surge in under-reporting of children's diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria. India has a poor record in child health metrics and COVID made it worse, but just as we begin, the data presented here are only those cases that were reported at nearly two lakh health institutions, largely rural and public, and some large private health facilities too. Hence, numbers don't reflect the full picture but show crucial trends.

It has been more than a year and a half since the onset of COVID-19, the focus on the pandemic has pushed other diseases to the backburner. This has also resulted in a surge in under-reporting of children's diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
India has a poor record in child health metrics and COVID made it worse, but just as we begin, the data presented here are only those cases that were reported at nearly two lakh health institutions, largely rural and public, and some large private health facilities too. Hence, numbers don't reflect the full picture but show crucial trends.
Now pneumonia, diarrhoea, sepsis, malaria, followed by measles are the top childhood killers nearly half a million pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths occur in India annually. Hence tracking these is crucial.
Now all these diseases have seen a massive drop in registration and reporting. This in no way indicates that children were healthier in FY21 but it shows missed cases, any under-reporting and in this case, it is more than 50 percent can lead to severe disease burden and potential deaths.
Now as compared to January 2020, which was a normal month, pneumonia cases fell sharply through 2020 and saw 80 percent drop in reporting in May 2021. This was amidst the peak of the second wave. Remember, pneumonia is the largest childhood killer and reporting has fallen down sharply.
Talking about vaccine preventable diseases, those that require hospitalisation for treatment, the number of children reaching in hospitals fell down sharply. Important to note however that is in diphtheria and tuberculosis reporting rose in urban centres highlighting unavailable facilities in rural areas, and people forced to travel to urban centres.
On measles cases reporting fell, so did the reporting for deaths in the age of one to five years. These children didn't come to the institutions, they either got no treatment or were treated at home. Deaths in these instances will go up and that is possibly reflective here in the urban centres with a 267 percent rise. But since this data is only those that get reported in hospitals, the data will be much lesser than the civil death registry that will show a complete picture.
Watch the accompanying video of CNBC-TV18’s Archana Shukla for more details.