COVID-induced economic slowdown caused 1 lakh infant deaths in India
India recorded a third of global excess infant deaths in 2020 due to COVID-induced economic slowdown, a World Bank study has found. The study found that a slowdown in economies worldwide due to COVID-19 resulted in an additional 2,67,208 infant deaths in low and middle-income countries in 2020. The global death toll was 7% higher than expected for the year, the study asserted.
South Asia recorded most excess global infant deaths
According to the World Bank study—published in the online journal BMJ Open—eight South Asian countries accounted for the highest number of estimated excess infant deaths. These eight countries together recorded 1,13,141 excess infant deaths in 2020. India accounted for 99,642 excess infant deaths in 2020; more than a third of the global figure. Notably, India also recorded the highest number of annual births (2,42,38,000).
Research aimed to find impact of economic slowdown on children
The study, conducted in 128 countries, tried to find the impact of the negative shock on income on the survival of children up to 12 months old in low and middle-income countries. The researchers choose 2020 since the world economy is estimated to have contracted almost 5% that year due to COVID-19, increasing the number of people living in poverty by 120 million.
'Excess infant deaths shows vulnerability of infants in economic slowdown'
"Regardless of the exact number of projected deaths, the large number of excess infant deaths estimated in our analysis underscores the vulnerability of this age group to negative aggregate income shocks, such as those induced by the COVID-19 pandemic," the researchers wrote.
What did the research say about increased mortality of children?
The researchers pointed out some key factors that may have led to this increased mortality among children. The study said impoverishment at the household level has led to worse nutrition and care practices for infants. The financial crisis has reduced the ability to access health services. The supply and quality of services offered by the health systems are also affected by the economic slowdown.
Researchers relied on GDP data to reach conclusion
The researchers assessed the aggregate income shock through the projected fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They also linked data on GDP per head of the population to 5.2 million births, reported in Demographic and Health Surveys between 1985-2018. They then applied IMF economic growth projections for 2019 and 2020 to predict the effect of the economic downturn on infant deaths in 2020.
What are the limitations of this study?
The researchers acknowledged some limitations of the study, which include the fact that their calculations drew on retrospective data. Furthermore, the study only considered the short-term impact of GDP fluctuations on infant death rates.