Background Paper | 2.2 Billion Children: How Do We Ensure Their Protection and Well-being Amidst an Infectious Disease Outbreak?
COVID-19 is a public health crisis engulfing the world, confining and separating populations, and transforming lives. Rapidly imposed nation-wide containment, control, and mitigation strategies have included constraints on movement; regional and national-level border closures; procedures for quarantine and isolation; social distancing; school closures; suspension of care structures’ activities; restrictions on access to health and social services; reduced public transport; and the closure of non- essential businesses. Secondary impacts – those relating to these containment, control and mitigation measures – have complicated and harmed the lives of many children, families, and communities.
Children are experiencing poverty, hunger, abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence at alarming rates. 1.8 billion children live in 104 countries across South Asia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, where protection services have been disrupted. This includes violence prevention and response services. At the peak of the lockdown, over 90 per cent of children worldwide – that is 1.5 billion children – were affected by school closures. This impacted on their education and futures, as well as their access to protective services provided by schools. Before COVID-19, children made up one third of the world’s population, yet they were half of the population living in extreme poverty. Up to 66 million more children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of this disease. The long- term risks to children as a result of the pandemic are severe.