Children, whose lives went upside down during the time of Covid 19, should get greater priority now with the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid 19 as no longer a global threat, argues Save the Children.
As per estimates, about 100 million additional children were driven into poverty, and 1.5 billion had their education disrupted.
Save the Children Global Medical Director Dr Zaeem Haq said that the WHO’s announcement that COVID-19 was no longer a public health emergency of international concern was a “crucial milestone”. However, it did not eradicate the greater challenges now facing millions of children worldwide.
Over the past three years, COVID-19 turned children’s lives upside down. He said that the pandemic denied them access to education, health and protection. This widened global inequality and driving an estimated 100 million additional children into poverty, he said. However, the doctor noted that though COVID-19 is no longer officially considered a ‘ public health emergency, the virus was here to stay. Many vulnerable communities around the world remain unvaccinated, raising the risk of death and ill health, he said. “Hundreds of millions of children are still facing the effects of the pandemic every day and will likely continue to do so for years to come,” he said.
Moreover, Save the Children said that COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns, global economic shutdown and disruption to services brought on an unprecedented crisis for children. This put their physical and mental health, education, protection and economic wellbeing in jeopardy. This, combined with the effects of conflicts and the climate crisis, exacerbated existing inequalities and hit the most marginalised children the hardest. An estimated 100 million additional children were driven into poverty and the risk of hunger increased worldwide. Over 1.5 billion children had their education disrupted, and children suffered an increase in violence when schools were closed. An estimated 10.5 million children lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, and the pandemic unleashed a global mental health crisis, with 83% of children reporting an increase in negative feelings as a result.
“Without urgent global action, years of progress for children will be permanently reversed, putting the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals beyond reach. It is vital that all governments prioritise and invest in children’s physical and mental health, nutrition, wellbeing, protection, learning, and commit to invest in early outbreak detection systems and robust pandemic preparedness, strengthen health systems and ensure universal access to healthcare.
“The announcement by the WHO serve as a stark reminder that we live in a highly unequal world, one that is failing to protect children and their rights. Global leaders must work together to prioritise and finance the work that must be done,” Dr Zaeem Haq said.