Geneva, Nov 19: The world risks acquiring a generation of children whose education, nutrition and health have been irreversibly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.
The fund released a report titled "Averting a Lost COVID Generation" ahead of the World Children's Day on November 20.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a persistent myth that children are barely affected by the disease. Nothing could be further from the truth ... While children can get sick and can spread the disease, this is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg. Disruptions to key services and soaring poverty rates pose the biggest threat to children. The longer the crisis persists, the deeper its impact on children's education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, as quoted in a press release to the report.
According to the report, one in nine coronavirus cases in 87 countries were confirmed in children and adolescents under 20 years of age, or 11 per cent of all 25.7 million cases reported by these countries.
Meanwhile, school closures have affected 572 million children worldwide, or 33 per cent, according to the report.
UNICEF has argued against school closures, saying that schools are not the main driver of community transmission and that children are more likely to get infected outside school settings, with the net benefit of keeping schools open with basic safety measures in place outweighing the costs of closing them.
Furthermore, the report documented a 40-per cent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children across 135 countries, with 265 million children still missing out on school meals globally.
Yet, the most serious threat to children is associated with COVID-19-related disruptions to critical health and social services, according to the report. Fear of infection was the reason of drop in coverage of health services such as routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, and maternal health services across in around one-third of 140 countries reviewed by UNICEF.
The agency provided a six-point list of recommendations to governments and the private sector, urging them to prioritize the needs of children.