Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward, UNICEF says as pandemic declaration hits one-year mark

One year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the latest available data from UNICEF uncover a devastating and distorted new normal for the world’s children.

“One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, progress has gone backward across virtually every key measure of childhood,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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. The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable.”

How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected children:

  • As of March 2021, 13 per cent of 71 million COVID-19 infections in 107 countries (62 per cent of the total global infections) with data by age are among children and adolescents under 20 years of age.
  • In developing countries, child poverty is expected to increase by around 15 per cent. An additional 140 million children in these countries are also already projected to be in households living below the poverty line.
  • Schools for more than 168 million schoolchildren globally have been closed for almost a year. Two-thirds of countries with full or partial closures are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • At least 1 in 3 schoolchildren has been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed.
  • Around 10 million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress in reducing the practice.
  • At least 1 in 7 children and young people has lived under stay-at-home policies for most of the last year, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation.
  • As of November 2020, an additional 6 to 7 million children under age 5 may have suffered from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, resulting in almost 54 million wasted children, a 14 per cent rise that could translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. With a 40 per cent decline in nutrition services for children and women, many other nutrition outcomes can worsen.
  • As of November 2020, more than 94 million people were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries.
  • As of November 2020, in 59 countries with available data, refugees and asylum seekers are unable to access COVID-19-related social protection support due to border closures and rising xenophobia and exclusion.
  • Around 3 billion people worldwide lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. In the least developed countries, three quarters of people, more than two-thirds of schools and a quarter of health care facilities lack the basic hygiene services needed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. On average 700 children under-five die every day from diseases caused by the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene.

“Children must be at the heart of recovery efforts,” said Fore. “This means prioritizing schools in reopening plans. It means providing social protection including cash transfers for families. And it means reaching the most vulnerable children with critical services. Only then can we protect this generation from becoming a lost generation.”

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