Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected vulnerable segments of the population, including children and their families. Well, what is the real impact of the pandemic on the welfare of households with children?
A report by the UNICEF and World Bank says that at least two-thirds of households with children have lost income since the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago. The report “Impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children” presents findings from data collected in 35 countries. It notes that households with three or more children were most likely to have come up short, with more than three-quarters experiencing a reduction in earnings.
The report focuses on key areas such as income and job loss, food insecurity, social protection programs and access to education, shedding light on the importance of placing children in poverty and their families highly on the agenda in the COVID-19 response and recovery
HOW MANY CHILDREN LEFT WITHOUT FOOD?
The report points out that income loss have left adults in one in four households with children going without food for a day or more. It also mentioned about Adults in nearly half of households with children reportedly skipping a meal due to a lack of money. Around a quarter of adults in households with or without children reported stopping working since the pandemic hit, the report says.
UNICEF Director of Programme Group Sanjay Wijesekera pointed out that the modest progress made in reducing child poverty in recent years risks being reversed in all parts of the world. Noting that families have experienced loss at a staggering scale, he said “while last year inflation reached its highest level in years, more than two thirds of households with children brought in less money. Families cannot afford food or essential health care services. They cannot afford housing. It is a dire picture, and the poorest households are being pushed even deeper in poverty.”
The UNICEF/World Bank report finds that children are being deprived of the basics. It said that children in 40 percent of households are not engaging in any form of educational activities. Given that data is compiled at the household level, the actual participation rate at individual level is likely even lower, especially for children who come from households with three or more children.
Meanwhile, Global Director of Poverty and Equity for the World Bank Carolina Sánchez-Páramo said; “The disruptions to education and health care for children, coupled with catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenses which affect more than 1 billion people, could put the brakes on the development of human capital – the levels of education, health and well-being people need to become productive members of society.”
“This could lock in increases in inequality for generations to come, making it less likely that children will do better than their parents or grandparents, Sánchez-Páramo said.
LOSS OF INCOME
The report stresses that households with three or more children were the most likely to experience a loss of income. Moreover, these households were also most likely to receive government assistance, with 25 percent accessing this support, compared to 10 percent of households with no children. This assistance has helped in mitigating the adverse impact of the crisis.
SOCIAL PROTECTION SYSTEMS
UNICEF and the World Bank in its report urges a rapid expansion of social protection systems for children and their families. They call for delivery of cash transfers and the universalisation of child benefits as critical investments that can help lift families out of economic distress and help them prepare for future shocks. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 200 countries or territories have introduced thousands of social protection measures, and the World Bank has supported countries with approximately 12.5 billion dollar to implement such measures, reaching nearly one billion individuals worldwide.