Save the Children: ‘Outbreak could cause millions of children to suffer for years to come’
Children's rights must be at the heart of the COVID-19 response, Save the Children said today, to ensure an entire generation does not suffer the catastrophic, long-term consequences of the outbreak. To meet their needs, children need to be involved in battling the virus and mitigating its impact.
Save the Children issued this warning in response to a brief by UN Secretary General António Guterres.
According to the briefing, an estimated 84 to 132 million people could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the global pandemic, half of them children - meaning their families would have less than $1.90 dollar to live on. With health systems overstretched, hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths could occur this year. An estimated 1.5 billion children and students have so far been unable go to school and many of them have limited access to distance learning.
Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children, said:
"We welcome the much-needed words of the UN Secretary-General. The COVID-19 outbreak threatens to undo in just a few months the progress the world has made in recent years on education, protection, child poverty and child mortality. It is vital we do not let this happen."
Social disruption and high stress at home can have a deep impact on children, and millions of them now face an increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Families stricken by poverty often see no alternative to marrying off their daughters or putting their children to work just to survive.
While children are at an increased risk of their rights being violated, the systems designed to protect them are scaled back. This means more violations go unseen, unreported and unpunished, especially in conflict zones where verifying violations is challenging even without a deadly outbreak.
Ms. Ashing continued:
"Our teams are working hard to prevent the devastating effects on children every day. However, to protect a generation from bearing the brunt of this outbreak and to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable children, a globally financed and coordinated response is needed.
"Fragile health systems must be protected so that sick children can still be treated for malnutrition and diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diphtheria. Families need to receive financial support from their governments to prevent them from sliding into poverty, and governments must invest in education and in keeping children safe.
"If leaders at all levels don't come together to face this crisis, not only will many more lives be lost but millions of children will suffer in the years to come. That is a future we cannot accept."
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