• Things must not fall apart: the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in sub-Saharan Africa

      Coker, Modupe; Folayan, Morenike O.; Michelow, Ian C.; Oladokun, Regina E.; Torbunde, Nguavese; Sam-Agudu, Nadia A. (Springer Nature, 2020-09-24)
      Children aged 0–19 years in sub-Saharan Africa bear a disproportionate proportion of the global burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Significant public health gains have been made in the fight against these diseases. However, factors such as underequipped health systems, disease outbreaks, and conflict and political instability continue to challenge prevention and control. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) introduces new challenges to public health programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Of particular concern are programs targeting major conditions among children, such as undernutrition, vaccine-preventable pneumonia and diarrhea, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and sickle cell disease. This article focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child health in sub-Saharan Africa. We review the epidemiology of major pediatric diseases and, referencing modeling projections, discuss the short- and long-term impact of the pandemic on major disease control. We deliberate on potential complications of SARS-CoV-2 co-infections/co-morbidities and identify critical social and ethical issues. Furthermore, we highlight the paucity of COVID-19 data and clinical trials in this region and the lack of child participants in ongoing studies. Lastly, approaches and interventions to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on child health outcomes are discussed. Impact: Children in sub-Saharan Africa bear a disproportionate burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases globally; this remains true even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.Amidst the fast-expanding COVID-19 literature, there is little comprehensive coverage of the pandemic’s indirect impact on child health in sub-Saharan Africa.This article comprehensively outlines the threat that the pandemic poses to major disease prevention and control for children in sub-Saharan Africa. It discusses the potential impact of SARS-CoV-2 co-infections/co-morbidities, highlights research gaps, and advocates for data and action to mitigate the ripple effects of the pandemic on this population.