Children face trifecta of threats amidst Covid

Youth going hungry, losing out on education

23 November 2020 | Health

Windhoek • [email protected]
Except for the direct consequence of the Covid-19 itself, children face interruption in essential
services and increasing poverty and inequality.
During the World Children’s Day celebrations on Friday, minister of Gender Equality, Poverty
Eradication and Social Welfare, Doreen Sioka said that government has achieved many milestones to
be proud of. “It is this progress that encourages us to recognise and address the emerging challenges
brought forth by Covid-19 to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Recent government reports state that 15% of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Namibia are in the 0-19
age group, meaning 1 in 7 of the total confirmed cases are children. The reports further state that
despite the overall decrease in the total confirmed cases since the lifting of the Covid-19 State of
Emergency, cases continue to flare up in closed settings such as schools and hostels.
Unicef representative to Namibia, Rachel Odede, says that this is just the tip of the pandemic
iceberg. “Not only are children suffering the direct consequences of this disease, but the longer this
crisis continues, the worse it gets for children. Missed education, worsening malnutrition, and
rapidly rising poverty all threaten a lost generation,” she says.
Unicef launched an analysis report, “Averting a lost Covid generation” on Thursday last week. With
data from countries around the world, the report reveal that 1 in 9 known Covid-19 infections are
among children and young people under the age of 20.
The data shows that students in lower-income countries have missed more days of school than
students in higher-income countries, with the global average of school days missed, standing at 47.
“Scholars in high-income countries lost 27 school days, compared to 40 in upper middle income
countries, 68 in lower middle income countries and 62 in low income countries,” the report states.
While online teaching has become the norm, internet channels only reached 24% of school children
globally, “reflecting socio-economic inequality and a deep digital divide”.

Hunger
The most recent Unicef data from 135 countries indicates a 40% decline in coverage of services to
improve nutrition for women and children. “At the peak of school meal disruption in July, nearly 370
million children in 161 countries who rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition had
to look to other sources,” the report read, adding that as of October 2020, 265 million children were
still missing out on school meals globally.
It is projected that around 2 million additional child deaths under the age if five and 200 000
additional stillbirths could occur over a 12-month period, with worst-case interruptions to services
and rising malnutrition.

In light of this, Unicef is calling on governments and partners to develop a six-point plan that
includes that all children are able to learn, and that the digital divide is narrowed. They are also
calling for guaranteed access to health and nutritional services, and that vaccines affordable and
available to every child. Furthermore, the support and protection of the mental health of children
and young people should be noted and an end should be brought to abuse, gender-based violence
and neglect in childhood.
Governments are urged to increase access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene and address
environmental degradation and climate change, while reversing the rise in child poverty and
ensuring an inclusive recovery for all.

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