As the COVID-19 pandemic lurches toward a second year, a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned of significant and growing consequences for children.
UNICEF in a report it released ahead of World Children’s Day with t theme; Averting a Lost COVID Generation, slated for today, reiterated that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation can be life-altering.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said “Since the pandemic started, there has been a false belief that children are not affected by COVID-19. Nothing can be further from the truth, including in Nigeria.
“While children are less likely to have severe symptoms of illness, they can be infected and the biggest impact by far is the disruptions Hawkins said key services and increasing poverty rates, which are both having a huge impact on the education of Nigerian children, as well as health, nutrition, and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk globally and in Nigeria.”
The new UNICEF report finds that as of 3rd November, in Nigeria, children and adolescents under 20 years of age account for 1 in 10 infections, or 11.3 percent of total.
According to the report, “Around one-third of the country’s analyses witnessed a drop of at least 10 per cent in coverage for health services such as routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, and maternal health services.
Fear of infection is a prominent reason. In Nigeria, the drop was between 17 percent and 22.5 percent for select services, compared to figures from 2019 in the same period, and is variable across the country.
“There is a 40 per cent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children across 135 countries. In Nigeria, that decline is estimated at 35 percent. 65 countries reported a decrease in home visits by social workers in September 2020, compared to the same time last year, including Nigeria.
“As of November 2020, 572 million students are affected across 30 country-wide school closures, 33 per cent of the enrolled students worldwide. “An estimated two million additional child deaths and
200,000 additional stillbirths could occur over a 12-month period with severe interruptions to services and rising malnutrition.
“An additional 6 to 7 million children under the age of 5 will suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, a 14 per cent rise that will translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
“Globally, the number of children living in multidimensional poverty without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water is estimated to have soared by 15 per cent, or an additional 150 million children by mid-2020.”
To respond to this crisis, UNICEF has called on all governments and partners to ensure all children learn, including by closing the digital divide.
The child’s rights organisation also urged government to guarantee access to nutrition and health services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child among others.
UNICEF is commemorating World Children’s Day in Nigeria by amplifying
the voices of children and young people calling for improvements in
the situation of children in the country while also introducing two
new animated characters to Nigeria “Lara and Ali” to bring regular
messages to children about important child rights issues in a fun and