Jakarta: COVID-19 has led to the death of hundreds of children in Indonesia, many of them younger than age 5, asserting the fact that children are no longer ‘hidden victims’, the media reported.
Indonesia has a child mortality rate due to COVID greater than that of any other country, The New York Times reported.
More than 150 children died from COVID-19 during the week of July 12 alone, with half the recent deaths involving those younger than age 5, Dr. Aman Bhakti Pulungan, head of the Indonesian Pediatric Society, was quoted as saying.
Children make up 12.5 percent of the country’s confirmed cases, an increase over previous months, said Pulungan, citing reports from pediatricians.
“Our numbers are the highest in the world. Why are we not giving the best for our children?” he said.
The rise in deaths coincides with the surge of the delta variant, which has swept through Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low, causing record outbreaks not only in Indonesia but also in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam as well, The NYT reported.
In July, Indonesia overtook India and Brazil in the number of daily cases, becoming the new epicentre of the pandemic. The government on Friday reported nearly 50,000 new infections and 1,566 deaths.
According to Pulungan, over 800 children younger than 18 have died from the virus in Indonesia since the pandemic began, but the majority of those deaths have occurred only in the past month.
“Until now, children have been the hidden victims of this pandemic,” said Dr. Yasir Arafat, Asia health adviser to the nonprofit group Save the Children. “Not anymore.”
“Not only are countries like Indonesia seeing record numbers of children dying from the virus,” Yasir said, “but we’re also seeing an alarming rise in children missing out on routine vaccinations and nutrition services that are critical for their survival, which should ring major alarm bells.”
The high number of deaths among children could be because of underlying health conditions such as malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, health experts were quoted as saying.
The country’s low vaccination rate is another factor. Just 16 percent of Indonesians have received one dose, and only 6 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.