Apr 17, 2020 - Health

UN: Millions of children at risk of poverty and malnutrition due to coronavirus

In this image, a boy sits on a beach wearing a face mask
A boy plays at junction of the Han River and the Yangtze River on April 17 in Wuhan, China. Photo: Getty Images/Stringer

Millions of children around the world are endangered by the coronavirus pandemic, despite being a low-risk age group to contract COVID-19, the United Nations warned in a report released this week.

The big picture: Lack of schooling, poverty caused by lost family income, malnourishment, and risk of abuse while staying at home all pose dangers to children during the crisis.

What they found: Roughly 42 million to 66 million children could experience extreme poverty this year as a result of the pandemic, the UN estimates.

  • Over 1.5 billion children and youth are currently out of school, due to closures made in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Widespread malnutrition is expected as more than 350 million children who depend on school meals have to find food elsewhere.
  • Although about two-thirds of countries around the world have introduced online or long-distance learning programs, only 30% of low-income countries have that access.
  • Economic hardships experienced by families could cause hundreds of thousands of children to die this year, the UN reports.
  • Stay-at-home orders, while necessary to slow the spread of the virus, heighten the risk that children are exposed to violence and abuse from adults. If child abuse occurs, children have a diminished ability to report to teachers or social workers.

What they're saying: "All children, of all ages, and in all countries, are being affected, in particular by the socio-economic impacts and, in some cases, by mitigation measures that may inadvertently do more harm than good. This is a universal crisis and, for some children, the impact will be lifelong," the report says.

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