The Covid-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching effect on the lives of children and families. Confinement, concerns around sickness, financial insecurity, and lack of access to quality education have all taken their toll and disrupted children’s fundamental rights to survival, protection, development, and education. The long-term results of which are not yet known. This article highlights four major ways the Covid-19 pandemic has affected children and families, and how they can be better supported.
Impact of the coronavirus disease on children and families
1. Unemployment and financial worries
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are now living in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 USD per day). The World Bank reports poverty rates grew from 88 million to 115 million in 2021. While unemployment rates plummeted in 2020 from 114 million jobs compared with 2019. This was alongside a drop in earnings in low and middle-income countries.
UNICEF states there is a direct correlation between a rise in poverty and child labor. Working children and families have reported a loss of income and faced job insecurity. And some families have been forced into urban areas to make use of their limited resources. This all leads to an increase in child labor, and more children engaged in heavy, hazardous, and exploitative work.
Although restrictions are mostly gone in some areas, unemployment remains high. Many families still report struggling to find decent employment and say there are not as many jobs available as there were before.
2. Adverse effects on children’s education
When classrooms switched to online, not all students were able to adjust. Web-based learning intensifies the digital divide between those with the internet and other technologies, and those who do not. A particular challenge for children without access or tools for studies, such as laptops or headphones. The lack of child-friendly modules and face-to-face teacher time also meant some students were unable to fully participate in online activities.
The right to an education is a fundamental human right that is vital for children’s long-term prospects. However, lockdowns and the inability to access quality education have led to an increase in school drop-outs. Some children have been unable to return to school. While others have lost motivation, instead preferring to work with the family to help make ends meet. With many families facing financial hardship, the school has taken a backseat. Working children whose earnings once paid for education are covering basic needs like food and rent instead.
3. Greater risk of domestic violence
Risk factors for violence, neglect, and abuse increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been widely reported that domestic violence significantly increased during the lockdown. This includes forms of gender-based violence such as sexual assault, increased reports of child pregnancies for girls, harsher physical punishment for boys, and neglect across periods of confinement. On top of that, escalated web time also puts children at greater risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation.
4. Impact on mental health and wellbeing
All children have the right to feel cared for and supported, have a safe loving home that is free from danger, and be able to spend time with loved ones. The restrictions implemented as a result of the coronavirus disease have disrupted these rights, and have harmed children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. It has changed how they interact with peers and loved ones. And there is increased anxiety and fear around family members getting sick and concerns about the number of cases in the community. While economic hardships have caused stress and forced children into exploitive or unsafe working conditions. At the same time, interruptions to education have caused uncertainty around future aspirations and goals.
In this Kinderlife report, children reported that knowing they were heard, and having increased chances to communicate had a positive impact on their overall wellbeing. And some were able to find solace at home through reading, listening to music, and spending quality time with family.
Calls for a more diverse response to a complex situation
The full experience of the pandemic on children’s lives is varied. That’s why a multi-sectoral response is necessary to ensure children’s rights are upheld. Such as efforts by governments and shareholders to ensure the protection of working children. Also, NGOs and grassroots organizations must be able to reach out and support local children and families.
Ensuring the protection of children’s rights means continual communication with children and families to share their views and consultations with the state and government throughout the decision-making process.
Post-pandemic needs of children and families
- Sources of employment to earn an income that will enable families to provide for basic needs and school-related costs
- Food security and social protection schemes that provide for the most vulnerable
- Ability to access quality education through free internet, devices, and easy access to materials
- Allow access to free and inclusive healthcare for everyone
- Increased child protection programs so law enforcement can work quickly and effectively to prevent child violence and exploitation
- Give children a voice and involve children and their families in decisions that affect them
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on the world and has shaped the lives of young people in ways we don’t yet fully understand. But we can look at the immediate effects to help mitigate the lasting ramifications on children’s lives and future aspirations.
– Kristen Rive-Thomson
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