NEW DELHI: Millions of children's lives are at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study by UNICEF reported.
According to the study, as many as 8,81,000 children– aged five and under– could die over the next 12 months and most of them could likely occur in India and Pakistan.
The study has been conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health titled ‘Lives Upended: How COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian Children’.
The study stated that as the healthcare system is in a precarious position in these countries, children in these conditions are likely to succumb to illnesses that are already prevalent like measles and pneumonia in South Asian countries.
It also stated that COVID-19 pandemic could push an additional 120 million children below the poverty line in the next six months. The study said that with the whole attention directed towards fighting SARS-nCOV, children are not getting adequate attention for other illnesses.
“The side-effects of the pandemic, including the lockdown and other measures, have been damaging for children in numerous ways,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “But the longer-term impact of the economic crisis on children will be on a different scale entirely. Without urgent action now, COVID-19 could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation.”
On maternal mortality, the study pointed out that over 36,000 mothers could die as mother and neonatal care has been neglected.
The report also said that with job loss and unemployment, poor families are finding it harder to provide meals to children and in urban areas, due to rising food prices, marginalised and poor populations are faced with growing threat of food insecurity.
The report also stated that the COVID-19 lockdown in India has adversely impacted the education of over 247 million school children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools, apart from the 28 million attending pre-school classes in the countries’ many Anganwadi centres, it said.
The study also recorded a marked increase in the number of calls received by the state-run child protection helpline — CHILDLINE, launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
“Nearly 10,000 of these were intervention cases which required CHILDLINE staff to reach the children in need of support. Of these 30 per cent were related escalation in violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage and child labour,” the report said.