Have you ever thought of the worst crisis that the children faced in the last 100 years? Well, the UNICEF in its 75 years of history thinks that COVID 19 is the worst crisis that the children faced in an unprecedented scale.
In its report Preventing a lost decade: Urgent action to reverse the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children and young people, the UNICEF has detailed about the various ways in which COVID-19 is challenging decades of progress on key childhood challenges such as poverty, health, access to education, nutrition, child protection and mental well-being.
Two years into the pandemic, the UN Agency says that COVID-19 continued to deepen increasing poverty, entrenching inequality and threatening the rights of children at previously unseen levels.
Noting that multiple crises are now threatening the hard fought gains for children, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in the forward said, “Throughout our history, UNICEF has helped to shape healthier and safer environments for children across the globe, with great results for millions. These gains are now at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest threat to progress for children in our 75-year history. While the number of children who are hungry, out of school, abused, living in poverty or forced into marriage is going up, the number of children with access to health care, vaccines, sufficient food and essential services is going down. In a year in which we should be looking forward, we are going backward.”
The report mentioned that 100 million more children have fallen into poverty in less than two years. It was a 10 per cent increase since 2019. The report stated that it would take seven to eight years to recover and return to pre-COVID-19 child poverty levels.
Moreover, the UNICEF points out that the deep disparity in recovery from the pandemic is widening the gap between richer and poorer countries. “While richer countries are recovering, poorer countries are saddled with debt and development gains are falling behind. The poverty rate continues to rise in low-income countries and least developed countries,” the report said.
Stressing that the world stood at a crossroads, the UNICEF report said the world need to decide to either protect or expand the gains made for child rights over years, or suffer the consequences
of reversed progress and a lost decade for today’s children and young people, which will be felt by all of us, everywhere.
In 2020, over 23 million children missed essential vaccines – an increase of nearly 4 million from 2019, and the highest number since 2009. Moreover, when the COVID was at its peak, more than 1.5 billion students were out of school due to nationwide shutdowns. Further, the report also notes that mental health conditions affected more than 13 per cent of adolescents aged 10–19 worldwide. Globally, 426 million children – nearly 1 in 5 – live in conflict zones that are becoming more intense and taking heavier toll on civilians, disproportionally affecting children. With respect to malnutrition, 50 million children suffer from wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition.
The report states that about one billion children live in countries that are at an extremely high risk’ from the impacts of climate change. It also said that more than 82 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced last year.
In a bid to recover and re-imagine the future of every child, UNICEF has called for;
- Investing in social protection human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery:
Ensuring fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines
Protecting children from deadly but treatable diseases
Reversing the child nutrition crisis
- Resuming in-person learning and improve quality education for every child
- Investing in the mental health and well-being of children and young people
- Consigning famine and food insecurity to history
- Taking urgent action to protect children from climate change and slow the devastating rise in global temperatures
Reimagining disaster spending
- Redoubling efforts to protect children in war