The COVID-19 pandemic and the mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of the disease are threatening decades of progress to help the world’s most vulnerable children survive and thrive. To determine just how badly the pandemic is affecting children globally, Save the Children conducted the largest and most comprehensive survey of children and their families. We talked directly with children and their caregivers in 37 countries, across 5 continents, to learn how the pandemic is impacting their access to healthcare and education, their mental health, their family finances, and their safety. After hearing firsthand from some 25,000 respondents, it is clear that the pandemic’s effects are rapidly widening the inequality gaps between children.
Our Protect a Generation report found that 89 percent of respondents said COVID-19 has impacted their access to healthcare, medicine, and medical supplies. Forty-five percent of respondents from poor households reported having trouble paying for medical supplies during the pandemic. Sadly, it is predicted that many children will die from preventable causes (measles, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition being the biggest culprits) during the pandemic because access to non-COVID-related healthcare has been a challenge and hasn’t been a priority for the past six months.
Children’s mental health is also suffering. More than eight in 10 of the children surveyed reported an increase in negative feelings, and nearly one third of households had a child, parent, or caregiver who shared there had been physical or emotional violence in their home since the start of the pandemic. Let’s say that again, out loud: in one out of three households, there has been violence reported. This is a, largely invisible, extra pandemic of violence against the most vulnerable.
Physical and mental health impacts are not the only consequences of the pandemic. According to UNICEF, up to 1.6 billion children globally have been unable to attend school in person, which is devastating because we learned through our survey that fewer than 1 percent of children from poor households have access to the internet for distance learning. Additionally, 40 percent of children from poor households said that they need help with their schoolwork, but they don’t have anyone to help them. As a result, more than 8 in 10 children we talked with felt that they were learning little or nothing at all. The ‘digital divide’ was real before Covid-19, now it has become an even bigger impediment to learning and children fulfilling their potential.
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COVID-19 Could Reverse Decades of Progress for the World’s Children