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Millions to give birth in a time of pandemic



THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that an estimated 116 million babies all over the world will be born under the shadow of COVID-19.

These babies are projected to be born about 40 weeks – nine to 10 months – after May 10, the day the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus had become a pandemic.

The lockdowns, which forced people to stay at home for months, became a favorite subject of light interest in the United States where online comments variously suggested that the new babies be called “Coronials” or “Quaranteens” or “Baby Zoomers” – a reference to the millions of “Baby Boomers” born after World War II ended in 1946.

But the matter of so many expected births is one of great concern to the UNICEF as it affects many poorer nations in a world already suffering from strained health systems because of the pandemic.

UNICEF said it sees a post-quarantine baby boom with over 20 million births in India alone. Other countries which are expected to have high numbers of births during this period are China, 13.5 million; Nigeria, 6.4 million; Pakistan, 5 million; and Indonesia, 4 million. The babies will be coming at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting health services, such as child care, putting pregnant mothers and their babies at great risk.

“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it was. They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become – a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centers for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

Last week, our own Population Commission (Popcom), citing studies of the University of the Philippines Population Institute, said the Philippines will have its share of these millions of babies coming at this difficult time.

Aside from some 600,000 mothers enrolled in the government’s population program who were not able to go to government health centers, there are an estimated 3 million Filipino women who may not be using any family planning method, and many of them may have babies by December, Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said.

UNICEF called on all governments and health care providers to be ready for the millions of pregnant women who will be needing pre-natal check-ups, skilled delivery care, post-natal services, along with care related to COVID-19. While it is not known if the virus is transmitted from a mother to the baby during pregnancy and delivery, UNICEF advised all pregnant women to take all precautions.

This early, the world’s many governments, including our own, should be preparing for this coming baby boom with all its problems in a time of pandemic.