Issuing a warning of significant and growing consequences for children as the COVID-19 pandemic lurches toward a second year, the UNICEF has called for taking steps to avert a loss of generation the virus threatens to cause irreversible harm to children’s education, nutrition and well-being.
The UN organization made the call in a new report titled ‘Averting a Lost COVID Generation’ released in New York today ahead of the World Children’s Day, said a press release here.It is the first UNICEF report to comprehensively outline the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic drags on.
The report showed that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a persistent myth that children are barely affected by the disease. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
While children can get sick and can spread the disease, this is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg, said Fore, adding, “Disruptions to key services and soaring poverty rates pose the biggest threat to children. The longer the crisis persists, the deeper its impact on children’s education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk.”
The report revealed that, as of 3 November, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for one in nine of COVID-19 infections, or 11 per cent of the 25.7 million infections reported by these countries.
More reliable age-disaggregated data on infection, deaths and testing is needed for better understanding how the crisis impacts the most vulnerable children and guides the response, it said.While children can transmit the virus to each other and to older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them, the report said, adding, schools are not a main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings.
“At the height of the pandemic, 192 countries in the world shuttered schools. By 15 September, 73 per cent of the countries reopened schools either fully or partially. It is important to initiate the process of operational planning towards a target date set for safe school reopening,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Country Representative in Bangladesh.
COVID-related disruptions to critical health and social services for children pose the most serious threat to children, the report said.
To respond to this crisis, the UNICEF’s call upon the governments and partners included ensuring all children learn, including by closing the digital divide, guarantying access to nutrition and health services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child.
“In this World Children’s Day, we are asking governments, partners and the private sector to listen to children and prioritize their needs,” Fore said, adding, “As we all reimagine the future and look ahead toward a post-pandemic world, children must come first”.