Lebanon: Maternal deaths triple, UNICEF raise concerns over children’s health amid crisis

The number of women dying in Lebanon from pregnancy-related issues has nearly tripled, according to UNICEF, despite a three-year economic crisis that has seen doctors and midwives flee the nation.

Children are suffering as a result of the crisis, particularly among Syrian refugees who have crossed the border into Lebanon.

According to UNICEF, a third of children will be unable to access healthcare by October 2021, and the number of children who die within the first four weeks of life has “increased dramatically among refugees in four provinces assessed, from 65 neonatal deaths in the first quarter of 2020 to 137 in the third quarter,” according to UNICEF.

According to government estimates, 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, accounting for nearly a quarter of the population.

“Many committed health professionals struggle to keep operations operating amid the crisis, resulting in distraught parents and families being unable to get essential health treatment for their children,” said Ettie Higgins, UNICEF Lebanon representative.

According to UNICEF, 40 percent of doctors have left the nation, including those who deal primarily with children and women, and 30 percent of midwives, lowering the quality of services in a country that was once regarded as a regional healthcare centre.

“Lebanon had achieved exceptional achievement in lowering maternal mortality, but numbers soared again between 2019 and 2021, from 13.7 to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births,” according to a report released Wednesday by the UNICEF.

The number of maternal deaths in Lebanon increased in 2021, according to Faysal al-Kak, coordinator of Lebanon’s National Committee on Safe Motherhood, owing in part to the coronavirus delta strain, but also to the crisis.

“The Lebanese crisis is a big variable – perhaps the mother does not visit as much as she should, fearful of coming to the doctor because it is expensive. It made ladies feel as though they couldn’t go to the doctor because they couldn’t afford it “He told media about it.

“Delta and the poor vaccination rate, in addition to the compounding situation we’re in, could have influenced accessibility, cost, and transportation in an indirect way.”

The withdrawal of most subsidies on fuel and medicine, as well as the increased cost of transportation and services as a result of the country’s currency collapse, has put healthcare out of reach for many, according to UNICEF.

Vaccination rates among youngsters have dropped, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to diseases like measles and pneumonia.

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