The current COVID-19 outbreak has shaken up the world but it has greatly affected the life of children, young people, their families and communities, especially those in vulnerable situations worldwide. As the pandemic expands its reach, there will be not only short, but long-term negative impact on children’s health, development and overall wellbeing.
The outbreak, the containment measures imposed and their unintended immediate consequences represent only the beginning of the challenges. All projections point to an extended and deep global economic crisis. The consequences will be felt by families all over the world; no country, no community will be secure. According to some estimates, “the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty” unless urgent action is taken. Some estimate we could see a reversal of approximately a decade of progress in reducing poverty.
And even when we will all feel the long-term consequences of the pandemic, existing inequalities and vulnerabilities will dictate the impact of this crisis in each region, country, or household. We are already seeing that under-resourced hospitals and fragile health systems are likely to be overwhelmed. This may be further intensified by a spike in cases, as up to 75% of people in least developed countries lack access to soap and water.” Income losses are expected to exceed $220 billion in developing countries. With an estimated 55% of the global population having no access to social protection, many will be left to fend for themselves without access to income, welfare support, or social safety net to fall back on.
Some families are living in overcrowded conditions, from inadequate and insufficient housing arrangements in cities and shanty dwellings to warzones or refugee settlements. In many of these cases, entire families share a room or makeshift tent or hut, and hygiene and self-isolation may be deemed impossible.
In addition, the growing number of families on the move – forcibly displaced by conflicts, climate change and other driving factors – is likely to even further increase due to the rise of poverty and the potential consequent violence and conflicts that this could generate. Today, already 52% of all refugees and 12% of migrants worldwide are children.
Over 89% of the students currently enrolled worldwide in education are out of school because of COVID-19 closures; representing 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university. Three hundred million primary school children who depend on school meals are missing out due to closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, which could increase food insecurity. Additionally, school closures disrupt learning for children and young people living in vulnerable conditions, unable to access distance learning tools, or whose schools lack the capacity to offer them, hence deepening current inequalities. Some of them may not return to school once the outbreak is controlled and the lockdown is lifted.
What need to be done to address the pandemic and its impact
- Child welfare and protection services, and their staff be designated as essential and resourced accordingly.
- Social protection services that support families’ income and wellbeing are scaled up.
- Inter-agency coordination delivering services to the community is strengthened.
- Safeguarding prevention and support is redoubled to promptly address increased risks of abuse, violence and neglect.
- Progress achieved in quality in alternative care is not jeopardized, but rather enhanced.
- Support and protection of care givers is scaled up.
- Children on the move are protected and their access to adequate care is ensured.
1. Oxfam. “Half a billion people could be pushed into poverty by coronavirus, warns Oxfam “; April 9th 2020. https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/half-billion-people-could-be-pushed-poverty-coronavirus-warns-oxfam
2. Summer A.,Hoy C., Ortiz-Juarez E.“ Estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty“. Working paper 2020/43 UNUWider; April 2020. https://www.wider.unu.edu/sites/default/files/Publications/Working-paper/PDF/wp2020-43.pdf
3. “COVID-19: Looming crisis in developing countries threatens to devastate economies and ramp up inequality “; UNDP; March 30th 2020. https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2020/COVID19_Crisis_in_developing_countries_threaten s_devastate_economies.html
4. Global Trends: Forced displacement in 2018. UNHCR, Geneva, 2019. https://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/5d08d7ee7/unhcr-global-trends-2018.html
5. “COVID-19, educational disruption and responses “; Unesco. Accessed on March 30th 2020. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
6. The Guardian. “Coronavirus: 300 million children to miss school meals amid shutdowns “; March 21st 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/21/coronavirus-300-million-children-to-miss-school-meals-amid-shutdowns