Children living in Pakistan face a higher mortality rate with over 14% after contracting COVID-19, according to a recent study, a report said Sunday.
The study, titled "Severe COVID-19 in Hospitalized Children in Pakistan: An Interim Analysis," was jointly conducted by four major health institutes in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).
It revealed that the risk is higher compared to the U.S. and Europe as some 159 children have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the South Asian country reported its first case in March 2020.
Compared to the only 1% coronavirus-related mortality rate so far recorded in the Western countries, the ratio in Pakistan is over 14%, which is "unusually high," according to the study released last week.
One in every seven children in Pakistan infected with "moderate to severe COVID-19" died, a death rate many times greater than in the West.
One in five children with underlying health conditions such as malnutrition, cancer, or cardiovascular diseases lost their lives, the study found.
Even children with sound health, it stated, were at risk as one in every eight young patients died after contracting the virus.
Dr. Fyezah Jehan, one of the study's authors, said most of the deaths were reported among children aged 1 to 9 years old.
She cited comorbidity and an overall fragile health care system as key reasons behind the comparatively higher number of deaths among children.
"The health of over half of the children who died due to the coronavirus was already compromised. They were suffering from different kinds of diseases, like cancer, heart, and neurological disorder, etc," Jehan, the head of the department of pediatrics and child health at Agha Khan University Hospital in the southern port city of Karachi, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
"It was also because the long-term care for the chronic diseases is not as good as it is in the West," she explained.
Despite the pandemic's falling trajectory, Jehan urged strict adherence to safety precautions, particularly in schools and other crowded settings.
"There is no need to keep children away from schools while this study is being conducted because overall coronavirus casualties in Pakistan are minimal," she said.
"However, we must not become complacent because the situation is far from over. Parents and teachers must ensure that their children wear masks and take other safety precautions, such as social distancing and hygiene, when at school or elsewhere," she insisted.
In the face of a dwindling pandemic situation, the government has withdrawn practically all coronavirus restrictions across the country.
Pakistan, which has a considerably weaker health care infrastructure, has reported fewer infections and deaths than the Western countries, where the pandemic has wreaked havoc.
Since March 2020, the country has reported 1.29 million coronavirus cases, with 28,830 deaths.
In terms of vaccination, the country has made significant progress, with over 100 million people out of approximately 210 million population having received at least one dose.
For several weeks, the average number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country has been less than 400 and 10, respectively.