Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many students in the world have been affected. XINHUA
Children are the future, but many people are concerned about the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the livelihood of the world’s youth.
In a statement made on April 16, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), called for urgent action to “protect our children” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thankfully, children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease. But their lives are being totally upended,” he said.
As CBS News noted, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, together with measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, is most likely to impact children’s lives in four areas: education, food, health and safety.
According to a report released by the UN, nearly 190 countries and regions have imposed school closures, affecting 1.5 billion students. Many schools have moved toward online classrooms. However, expensive and slow internet services in some countries prevent this from being a possible option for some students.
Additionally, with classrooms shut, nearly 310 million children worldwide who rely on school meals are missing out on this daily dose of nutrition, Guterres said.
Meanwhile, food access may be threatened as a result of lockdown measures, which may disrupt local markets and food supply chains.
Safety at home and online is another concern. With billions of people around the world in close quarters under lockdown measures, family stress levels are rising. As South China Morning Post reported, domestic violence cases have risen in Hong Kong since the outbreak of COVID-19. And as the UN Children’s Fund noted, with more children relying on technology for learning and socializing during this time, the risk of online exploitation and abuse is rising.
Another major concern is that, as health systems become overwhelmed, it’s more difficult than ever for children to access standard healthcare. Polio vaccination campaigns have stopped, setting back progress in eradicating the disease in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Additionally, 23 countries and regions have suspended measles immunization campaigns targeting nearly 80 million children, noted the UN.
While the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, it is also an opportunity for “unprecedented international solidarity” for children and humanity, as the UN put it. Governments are urged to take steps to counter the unintended effects on children. “With the pandemic placing so many of the world’s children in jeopardy, I reiterate my urgent appeal: Let us protect our children and safeguard their well-being,” said the Secretary-General.