By Harry Leibowitz
UNICEF recently released a report on the impact of COVID-19 on children around the world. While the report does acknowledge that “the direct impact of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality is very limited,” it also points out that the “unintended and unforeseen” consequences on children put millions of them at risk.
At World of Children we started to see these risks appear weeks ago as we received field reports from around the globe. Since children are not primarily susceptible to the disease, we asked what is the impact on children? Here is what we have been hearing and seeing globally as well as in the United States:
- Food insecurity both in the United States and globally is having a disastrous impact on children. With adults out of work and no financial resources, malnutrition in the U.S. and starvation globally, are imminent risks. This is compounded by the closing of schools where children often received their only nutritious meals each day.
- As parents and guardians become ill or die, children are often left to fend for themselves, making them easy targets for abuse and trafficking.
- Sequestering children in homes where abuse may be an issue to begin with only exacerbates that abuse, as children do not go to school or even out to play, making them easier targets for abuse. UNICEF writes, “Children in conflict settings at home, and those living in unsanitary and crowded conditions such as refugee and IDP settlements, are at considerable risk of violence and abuse.”
- With access to normal health care or vaccinations completely stopped, an estimated 117 million children are now at risk for measles, polio, whopping cough and other childhood diseases.
It appears that children are, more often than not, the “unseen victims” of disasters such as COVID-19 when the society is worried about “intubation” and not “incubation,” new vaccines while we forget existing vaccines, and hospital beds instead of dinner tables.
At World of Children we have served children for 23 years, solely focusing on making tomorrow better for children than yesterday was. Now we have been called to action and must address children’s needs today so that they have a tomorrow!
Historically all disasters, whether from a health crisis such as Ebola or SARS, or from natural causes such as tsunamis or earthquakes, always result in massive disruption to children’s lives and health. More often than not, as now with COVID-19, it is the “cascade effect” that impacts children, and we do not get the information soon enough to intercede as the time lag between the event and the cascade can be months or even years.
This time, however, we are being warned early and we must take action. The lives of an entire generation of our children lie in the balance.
John F. Kennedy said it best: “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
Please do what you can to help children today so that they have a brighter tomorrow and future ahead.
Harry Leibowitz is co-founder of World of Children, an Encinitas-based nonprofit that serves children locally and throughout the world. Since 1998, the organization has dedicated more than $14 million to help fund high-impact programs founded by social entrepreneurs who have created sustainable platforms for commitment, action and dedication to serve the needs of the world’s most vulnerable children.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: