May 27, 2024

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COVID-19,’Biggest Global Crisis For Children’-UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s agency (UNICEF) says that COVID-19 has affected children at an unprecedented scale, making it the worst crisis in its 75-year history.

A report titled, Preventing a lost decade: Urgent action to reverse the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children and young people,highlights the various ways in which COVID-19 is challenging decades of progress on key childhood challenges such as poverty, health, access to education, nutrition, child protection and mental well-being. It warns that, almost two years into the pandemic, the widespread impact of COVID-19 continues to deepen, increasing poverty, entrenching inequality and threatening the rights of children at unprecedented levels.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore; “Throughout our history, the organisation has helped to shape healthier and safer environments for children across the globe, with great results for millions. These gains are now at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest threat to progress for children in our 75-year history. While the number of children who are hungry, out of school, abused, living in poverty or forced into marriage is rising, the number with access to health care, vaccines, sufficient food and essential services is going down. In a year in which we should be looking forward, we are going backward.”

 The report noted that a staggering 100 million additional children are estimated to be living in multidimensional poverty because of the pandemic, a 10 per cent increase since 2019. This corresponds to approximately 1.8 children every second since mid-March, 2020. Furthermore, it warns of a long path toward regaining lost ground, even in a best-case scenario, it will take seven to eight years to recover and return to pre-COVID child poverty levels.

School Feeding Of Pupils

 Citing further, it says that around 60 million more children are now in monetary poor households compared to period before the pandemic. Also, in 2020, more than 23 million children missed out on essential vaccines, an increase of about 4 million from 2019, and the highest number in 11 years.

 Even before the pandemic, about 1 billion children worldwide suffered at least one severe deprivation, without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water. This number continues to rise as the unequal recovery fuels growing divides between wealthy and poor children, with the most hurt being the marginalised and vulnerable. The report notes that: At its peak, more than 1.5 billion students were out of school due to nationwide shutdowns. Schools were closed worldwide for almost 80 per cent of the in-person instruction in the first year of the crisis.

·       Mental health conditions affect more than 13 per cent of adolescents aged 10–19 worldwide. By October 2020, the pandemic had disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93 per cent of countries worldwide·   Up to 10 million additional child marriages may occur before end of the decade as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

·    The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide, an increase of 8.4 million in the past four years. An additional 9 million children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by end of 2022 as result of increase in poverty triggered by the pandemic. 

·   At peak of the pandemic, 1.8 billion children lived in the 104 countries where violence prevention and response services were seriously disrupted.

·    50 million children suffer from wasting; the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, and this figure could increase by 9 million in 2022 due to the pandemic’s impact on children’s diets, nutrition services and feeding practices.

 Beyond the pandemic, the report warns of other threats to children that pose extreme danger to their rights. Globally, 426 million children, nearly 1 in 5 live in conflict zones that are becoming more intense and taking heavier toll on civilians, while disproportionately affecting children. Women and girls are at the highest risk of conflict-related sexual violence. Eighty per cent of all humanitarian needs are driven by conflict. Likewise, approximately 1 billion children, nearly half of the world’s children, live in countries that are at an ‘extremely high-risk’ from the impacts of climate change.

Out-Of-School Children in Private Tutorial Classes

 To respond, recover and re-imagine the future for every child, UNICEF continues to call for;  Investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery.

Investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery. 

Ending the pandemic and reversing the alarming rollback in child health and nutrition, including through leveraging UNICEF’s vital role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.       

Building back stronger by ensuring quality education, protection and good mental health for every child; Building resilience to better prevent, respond to, and protect children from crises, including new approaches to end famines, protect children from climate change, and re-imagine disaster spending. 

 “In an era of a global pandemic, growing conflicts, and worsening climate change, never has a child-first approach been more critical than today,” We are at a crossroads. As we work with governments, donors and other organizations to begin charting our collective path for the next 75 years, we must keep children first in line for investment and last in line for cuts. The promise of our future is set in the priorities we make in our present”, Fore said.