Children worldwide are not the face of this pandemic, but they are undoubtedly the most affected, in more ways than one. The effects of this pandemic will not harm all equally, but rather those in poorer households and countries.
The COVID-19 crisis could increase the number of children living in poor households by the end of 2020 by up to 117 million, according to the newest report from UNICEF. (Children in monetary poor households and COVID-19, 2020 UNICEF) Loss of income more often than not, leads to families losing basic necessities, like food, health care, and water. This in turn puts more children in danger of abuse, violence, and exploitation. Children are not receiving the proper diets needed to sustain a healthy life. Attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19 are damaging food supply lines, health services, nutrition services, and are threatening food security. (Reinhart, 2020) In Canada and the US, we see marginalized communities and families being impacted the most.
188 countries around the globe have changed their school policies, enacting national school closures that affect over 1.6 billion youth and children, many of whom do not have access to stable internet in order to continue learning remotely, exacerbating the global learning crisis. (Strauss, 2020)
Over 66% of all countries have implemented distanced learning, but only around 30% of low-income countries were able to follow suit. (EduView Dashboard 2020) Many students from low socio-economic households depend on school systems to provide additional everyday support, such as breakfast and lunches, or free tutoring. Isolation has left many students without that extra outside support.
The pandemic could also lead to a rise in child labour. Since 2000, child labour decreased by 94 million, but that decline is increasingly at risk. (Karas, 2019) As COVID-19 leads to rises in poverty levels, households are forced to take advantage of every single means of income possible, including child labour. Studies show that a one percent rise in poverty could result in a 0.7 percent increase in child labour in certain countries. (Jamal, 2020) Additionally, along with lockdowns comes a heightened risk of children suffering abuse and violence. School and jobs can be a sort of safe haven for many children and youth who are witnesses or victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect at homes.
We do not yet fully understand the effects of CoVid-19 on children’s physical health, and similarily, we do not understand the effects on children’s mental health either. We don’t know how long the virus outbreaks will last, we don’t know if there will in fact be a global second wave, as some epidemiologists warn, we don’t know what complete normalcy will look like once it is deemed safe enough to return to everyday schedule. What we do know is that children are becoming more vulnerable than any other demographic, and in order to keep them safe, we must do our part and help others do their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.