The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said progress has gone backward across virtually every key measure of childhood in a year of Covid-19 pandemic, revealing a ‘devastating and distorted new normal’ for the world’s children.
“The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased. At the same time, their access to education, socialization and essential services including health, nutrition and protection has decreased,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.“The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable,” she said.
Henrietta Fore called on all countries and stakeholders to ensure children are ‘at the heart of recovery efforts’.
According to the latest data from UNICEF, children in developing countries have been particularly affected, with rates of child poverty there feared to rise by around 15 percent and an additional 140 million children in these countries also projected to be in households living below the poverty line.
More than168 million schoolchildren globally missed out on almost a year of classes, and more than 1 in 3 of the schoolchildren were unable to access remote learning, while schools were closed.
A sharp rise is also feared in child marriages, with about 10 million additional girls at risk of being married before they turn 18, unravelling years of progress in reducing the horrendous practice, and robbing young girls of their childhood and threatening their lives and health.
Health indicators, including mental health, for children also suffered major setbacks, and hunger and malnutrition rose sharply.As of March, children accounted for 13 percent of global Covid-19 infections in 107 countries surveyed (data under 20 years of age). Nearly 100 million children were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries (data as of November 2020).