The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and The Lancet Commission released a report, A Future for the World’s Children? in February 2020, examined threats to children’s health, such as those caused by climate change and the resulting poverty, migration, and hunger, as well as those caused by the commercial marketing of harmful substances. The global spread of the COVID-19 virus poses further threats to children, and it is also triggering an economic disaster that will have a disproportionately negative impact on young people throughout the globe. (Clark et al., 2020) COVID-19’s resilience and flexibility, however, may be put to use for the benefit of future generations.
To a lesser extent than adults, children are affected by COVID-19 from a clinical standpoint. Children, too, are vulnerable to the secondary effects of the epidemic, not least because they may lose or be separated from their families. (Clark et al., 2020)It is estimated that over a million children might die needlessly due to poor nutrition and disruptions in healthcare services. There is a risk that kids will not get timely care for things like cuts and scrapes, monitoring of their development, and preventive measures. Some kids are not being sent to social services despite the rising rate of domestic violence.
Despite short-term benefits like less air pollution and fewer traffic accidents, the Globe Food Programme has warned about an imminent “hunger pandemic” and the risk of severe poverty for tens of millions of children worldwide due to the COVID-19 reaction. Children’s long-term physical and mental health may be adversely affected by poverty and hunger throughout pregnancy and infancy. (Dong et al., 2020) More than 1.5 billion children aged 15-19 have been prevented from finishing their education due to the spread of COVID-19. (Dong et al., 2020) When schools are closed, children from more wealthy families can continue their education utilizing online resources, while others from less well-off backgrounds fall farther behind. In other situations, such as what happened in Sierra Leone following the Ebola virus outbreak, women would be less inclined to return to school because of the growing rates of early pregnancy. Hundreds of millions of youngsters throughout the globe who rely on school meals go hungry every day. 2
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said, “It is OK to feel afraid,” during a press conference aimed only at children, given that they are constantly exposed to stories of disease and death during this pandemic. Many youngsters still cannot go outdoors and play with their peers. Adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of isolation because they rely so much on positive peer relationships for their development. (Roberton et al., 2020) Some children and teens benefit from spending more time interacting with others online, but this comes with increased risks of exploitation, bullying, and commercialization. Children who have been separated from their caregivers are especially vulnerable; studies have shown that as many as 30 percent of these kids develop PTSD after experiencing a natural catastrophe. It may be challenging for parents to provide the kind of attentive parenting that is essential for children to thrive during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
If a kid is born into poverty, is a girl, has a disability, lives in an indigenous community, is a member of a minority race or ethnic group, or is a member of a sexual minority, their future is especially at risk in an unequal society. Young people, who account for more than half of all refugees globally, are especially vulnerable to the trauma induced by COVID-19. (Roberton et al., 2020)The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has voiced its concern that the COVID-19 pandemic poses severe threats to children’s rights and that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to circumvent laws and treaties meant to protect children, such as the United States March 2020 order allowing the expulsion of unaccompanied minors who are “from a country where a communicable disease exists.”
Our Commission found that there are short-term, long-term, and generational returns on spending money on children. Doing what is best for kids also benefits the whole community. National leaders should prioritize children’s health and safety during the recovery process by consulting with children’s rights experts, involving them in relevant task forces and legislative working groups, encouraging collaboration between their ministries on children’s behalf, and consulting with children and teenagers directly to learn what changes they would like to see implemented. Children’s well-being must be prioritized in any climate crisis solution. Despite the high price tag on lives, this year’s required global shutdowns are only estimated to cut carbon emissions by 5-6%, illustrating how radically human relationship with the environment must change. (Clark et al., 2020)The removal of fossil fuel subsidies, the introduction of new carbon levies, and the proceeds from the stimulus package may fund a recovery focused on children’s health and well-being.
The fallout from the epidemic has shown how important it is to work together with communities and other sectors. (Roberton et al., 2020)Communities are coming together to care for one another, and the scale and timeliness of multisectoral social protection measures implemented in response to COVID-19 show what is possible. In light of warnings from mayors of numerous significant cities that “business as usual” will never return, local governments are in a prime position to implement a child-focused agenda. Putting children first necessitates significant shifts, such as reorganizing neighborhoods to include play spaces, giving parents more support so they can focus on raising their kids, establishing reliable sources of nutritious food for growing bodies, and preserving a livable environment for the future generations.
When everything is said and done, COVID-19 stresses the need for greater international cooperation. There has been a growing chorus of voices from political leaders to medical professionals to ordinary residents calling for a free, universal “people’s vaccine” against COVID-19 and for debt cancellation to help governments invest in their people’s futures. (Clark et al., 2020) The Commission recommended in its final report that a global effort be launched to ensure that children’s rights be at the center of the Sustainable Development Goals. Policy choices made today will have a lasting impact on our society’s well-being. We propose a single overarching inquiry to guide national responses to COVID-19: Are we making the world a better place for kids?
Clark, H., Coll-Seck, A. M., Banerjee, A., Peterson, S., Dalglish, S. L., Ameratunga, S., Balabanova, D., Bhan, M. K., Bhutta, Z. A., Borrazzo, J., Claeson, M., Doherty, T., El-Jardali, F., George, A. S., Gichaga, A., Gram, L., Hipgrave, D. B., Kwamie, A., Meng, Q., . . . Costello, A. (2020). A future for the world’s children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 395(10224), 605–658. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(19)32540-1
Dong, Y., Mo, X., Hu, Y., Qi, X., Jiang, F., Jiang, Z., & Tong, S. (2020). Epidemiology of COVID-19 Among Children in China. Pediatrics, 145(6). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-0702
Roberton, T., Carter, E. D., Chou, V. B., Stegmuller, A. R., Jackson, B. D., Tam, Y., Sawadogo-Lewis, T., & Walker, N. (2020). Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modeling study. The Lancet Global Health, 8(7), e901–e908. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2214-109x(20)30229-1