November 29, 2023

Children are not the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are among its biggest victims.
While we have to be thankful that our children have been mostly spared from the effects of Covid-19, at least to date, this crisis is having an impact on their welfare. Children are affected, in particular by the socio-economic effects and in some cases, by the mitigation measures that may inadvertently do them more harm than good. The impact of the pandemic on children will be life-long because it can disrupt the environments in which they grow and develop.
The Covid-19 can quickly change the scenery in which children live. Quarantine measures, such as school closures and restrictions on movements, disrupted children’s routine and social support. Children and families who are already vulnerable due to socio-economic exclusion or those who live in overcrowded settings are particularly at risk. Moreover, the harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. It is expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest localities and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.
According to a United Nations study, there are three main channels through which children are affected by this crisis: infection with the virus itself, the immediate socio-economic impacts of measures to stop transmission of the virus and end the pandemic, and the potential longer-term effects of delayed implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is helpful to distinguish these three channels through which their lives are being affected.
The first channel is through infection with the virus. Thankfully, children have been largely spared from the severe symptomatic reactions more common among older people – at least to date. Numerous cases of hospitalizations and deaths of children who have succumbed to the virus have been recorded, but these are exceptions and are likely related to prior conditions. Much more common has been for children to tragically lose a parent, family member, or caregiver to Covid-19. The psychosocial impacts of such loss on children should not be overlooked.
The second channel is through the socio-economic effects of the virus and related measures to suppress transmission and control the pandemic. As health services become overwhelmed in caring for large numbers of infected patients requiring treatment, children and pregnant women are less able to access standard care. Children of frontline workers have also had to adapt to alternative childcare arrangements. Children living in areas of armed conflict, who already struggle extensively to access health services may be further excluded from attention and access to the severely stretched health systems.
Physical distancing and lockdown measures, restrictions of movement and border closures, and surveillance strategies are all affecting children in myriad ways. Face-to-face child services – schooling, nutrition programs, maternal and newborn care, immunization services, sexual and reproductive health services, HIV treatment, alternative care facilities, community-based child protection programs, and case management for children requiring supplementary personalized care, including those living with disabilities, and abuse victims – have often been partially or completely suspended.
The impact of the pandemic extends far beyond the sphere of physical health. The pandemic is having profound effects on children’s mental well-being, their social development, their safety, their privacy, their economic security, and beyond, as we explore in the following section. Children living in refugee settlements and those living in refugee settlements or other crowded conditions are especially vulnerable.
The third channel is the risk that the virus and its response pose to the longer-term efforts to achieve the SDGs and ensure the realization of the rights of all children.
We have a chance to not only defeat this pandemic, but to transform the way we nurture and invest in the young generation. But we have to act now. We have to act decisively and at very large-scale. This is not a gradual issue. It is a clarion call for the world’s children, the world’s future.