More than 10.5 million children have lost one or both parents during the coronavirus pandemic – nearly double previous estimates – according to data released on Tuesday.
Southeast Asia and Africa suffered the highest rate of casualties, with one in 50 children affected compared to one in 150 in the Americas, according to the research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics.
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Among the countries with the highest rates of deaths of parents and caregivers are Bolivia, Peru, Namibia, Egypt, Bulgaria, South Africa, Ecuador, Eswatini, Botswana and Guyana, according to the analysis. Before the pandemic, there were approximately 140 million orphaned children around the world.
Children in countries with lower vaccination rates and higher fertility rates were more likely to be affected, according to the model’s analysis, which is based on deaths that exceeded what would normally be expected in a year. The numbers take into account deaths that occurred from January 2020 to May 2022 and were produced through a collaboration between model makers from the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Imperial College London, among others. .
Lead author Susan Hillis, a former CDC epidemiologist now at Oxford University, called the findings “sobering” and urged world leaders to prioritize orphaned children by providing financial, educational support. and mental health.
“When you have deaths of this magnitude, certainly without help you can weaken the fabric of a society in the future if you don’t take care of children today,” Hillis said.
In their letter, she and her co-authors wrote that “while billions of dollars are being invested to prevent deaths associated with COVID-19, little is being done to care for the children left behind.”
The consequences for children can be “devastating,” including institutionalization, abuse, traumatic pain, mental health problems, teenage pregnancy, poor educational achievement, and chronic and infectious diseases, they wrote.
The 10.5 million children who have suffered the loss of one or both parents include 4.2 million in Southeast Asia, 2.5 million in Africa, 1.5 million in the Americas, 1.5 million in the region of Eastern Mediterranean and 500,000 in Europe. In the United States, which is grouped with other nations of the Americas, some 250,000 children have lost one or both parents.
Advocates of childhood and the family have argued that the humanitarian crisis has parallels with the situation created by the AIDS epidemic. A 2020 report from the US Agency for International Development estimated that up to 17 million children had lost one or both parents to HIV / AIDS.
John Hecklinger, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Children, which works with 250 organizations in 46 countries, called the number of dead caregivers “staggering”. Aid workers in developing regions, he said, have reported that problems such as child trafficking, child marriages and labor exploitation practices involving children are increasing as the pandemic continues.
“The orphan crisis underlies many other issues,” he said.
Carolyn Taverner, co-founder of Emma’s Place, which provides bereavement counseling on Staten Island, has worked the entire pandemic with children and families who have suffered the loss of a parent to covid-19. You said public health policy makers should think about providing support not just for the short term, but for the long term.
Many resources are available soon after a tragedy, he said, but tend to diminish over time. Meanwhile, children can take years to come to terms with death, and adults around them may not recognize that academic, cognitive, or behavioral problems are often linked to the loss of a parent.
“The problem,” she said, “is that it often takes children a little longer to get emotional realization of grief and loss.”
Only a small number of countries, including the United States, have made national commitments to address the effects of the covid-associated orphanage. The White House under President Joe Biden released a memorandum promising that affected families would be able to access support programs and “connect to the resources they may need to help with their recovery, health and well-being.”
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