The governments have mobilised billions to save economises from nose diving. However, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned of a lost generation of children if not acted soon.
Aimed at bringing the governments together for a better generation, the UNICEF has come up with a six point agenda. These were written in their latest report “Averting a Lost COVID Generation”. The report is a comprehensive outline of the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic drags on.
The report points out that longer term impact on education and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people could have adverse impact.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that disruptions to key services and increasing poverty rates were 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,” she said.
Six Point Agenda
- Ensure all children learn
The report points out that the marginalised children suffer the most with schools closed in many countries. It said that the pandemic has affected education of 91 per cent children. Though many countries have take to digital learning, some 463 million young people are not able to access remote learning. The report also notes that several children, especially girls, who are out of schools, are less likely to return.
The UNICEF has asked the countries to give priority to open schools, increase education funding, ensure equal access to quality, violence-free education, close the digital divide by connecting all children and young people to the internet by 2030, protect schools from attack and hold perpetrators of these attacks to account.
- Guarantee access to health and nutrition services; make vaccines affordable to every child
The UNICEF said that a child survival crisis looms with the rise in the pandemic. It has asked governments to ensure the continuity of key health and nutrition services for children especially routine immunisation, unite to fight against spread of misinformation against routine immunization, collect gender, age, disability data on children and young people, including those who have contracted COVID-19, ensure every child and young person has equal and affordable access to COVID 19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, ensure any new funding expands access to other essential health services for children and young people
- Support, protect mental health of children; end abuse, gender based violence
The UNICEF in the report said that Covid 19 pandemic has increased child abuse and neglect. This is because children are cut off from key support services. Girls are particularly vulnerable, with child marriage and adolescent pregnancy already on the rise. The UN organisation has called for integrating sustainable mental health and psychosocial support funding, prioritising the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in global humanitarian action, provide parenting support to all those who need it and strengthen child helplines.
- Increase access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene
The UNICEF notes that unreliable access to safe water because of climate change limits people’s ability to practise life saving hygiene measures such as hand washing. The governments should guarantee universal access to clean water and hand washing for children and families, invest in climate resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services in homes, schools and public spaces, integrate child rights into key national climate change and adaptation strategies and policies. It also called to pursue, implement and monitor climate and environmentally focused targets and to teach children about climate change, environment and responsible and sustainable consumption and production.
- Reverse rise in child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery
The report said that the economic crisis due to Covid pandemic has hit the children the hardest. It said about 140 million children will be pushed to poverty by the end of 2020. With the economic crisis deepening, the governments cut many of the spending that includes cuts on programmes for children. And if this continues, the UNICEF warned that poverty and deprivation will only increase among children. Noting that an inclusive recovery plan was the need of the hour, the UNICEF said that resources should focus on an inclusive, gender sensitive recovery and also support national fiscal responses that prioritize children and their families. The countries should increase overseas aid commitments and act on debt relief, including extending current debt service suspension to middle income countries. They should also expand resilient social protection programmes for the most vulnerable children and their families.
- Strengthen efforts to protect and support children
The UNICEF in the report said that Covid 19 pandemic has increased the vulnerabilities of migrant, refugee and displaced children. Stating that the pandemic should not become an excuse to divert attention from these children, the UNCEF has called for increasing funding for emergencies to prevent multiple, catastrophic and protracted crises. Children should be given priority in all humanitarian responses. It asked for ensuring immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access. Moreover, it also called for ending attacks on children and on civilian infrastructure critical for their survival like water, health care facilities and personnel. The UNICEF wanted policies and plans for the displaced, refugee and migrant children in national system