Covid 19 to have larger impact on South Asian Children: UNICEF

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The COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia that houses a quarter of the world’s population will have longer impacts on the health, education and other advances for the children in the region, according to a new UUICEF report.

The report “Lives Upended” said that the governments should take urgent action to prevent millions of families from slipping back into poverty, which could affect an odd 600 million children.

The report said that nutrition, immunization and other vital health services have been severely disrupted. This threatened the lives of about 4.59 lakh children and mothers over the next six months, the report said. It also mentioned that food insecurity was growing. It said that a UNICEF survey in Sri Lanka showed that 30 per cent of families have reduced their food consumption. In Bangladesh, some of the poorest families are unable to afford three meals a day, the report pointed out.

UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Jean Gough said that lockdown and other measures as part of the coronavirus pandemic have been disastrous for the children in numerous ways. She noted that the longer-term impact of the economic crisis on children will be on a different scale. Ashe also warned that COVID-19 pandemic could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation if action was not initiated now.

The report points out that more than 430 million children had to rely on online learning after the schools are shut down. However, the report said that there were several gaps with many households, especially in rural areas, have no power and let alone internet. It warned that this could push some disadvantaged children to the group of another 32 million children, who are already out of school before the pandemic started.

Moreover, the report also notes about increased phone helplines reported from children. Most of the calls are from children who suffer violence and abuse at homes during the lockdown.

“Lives Upended” points out that vaccination campaigns against polio, measles and other diseases must resume. It also said that schools should resume the classes provided adequate handwashing and other physical distancing precautions are in place.

The report said that the region had in the last several years gained progress in health, education and other advances. However, economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus has hit families across the region hard, the report said. Large scale job losses and wage cuts combined with loss of remittances from overseas workers and from tourism have shattered the economy of the region. The UNICEF had projected that as many as 120 million more children could be pushed into poverty over the coming six months.

For overcoming the crisis, UNICEF has asked the various countries to immediately direct more resources towards social protection schemes, including emergency universal child benefits and school feeding programmes.

Some of the important things that the Report points out for tackling critical child-related issues are as follows;

  • Scaling up of low-tech home learning solutions (for example, using a combination of paper and mobile phone-based materials) especially for vulnerable groups such as girls, children living in remote areas and urban slums, and children with disabilities.
  • Addressing the widescale need for water supply, toilets and hygiene services in schools and health care facilities.
  • Working with religious leaders and other partners to address the myths and hate-speech that the pandemic has given rise to.

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