By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
UNICEF has warned in a new report yesterday of significant and growing consequences for children as the COVID-19 pandemic lurches toward a second year.
The report which was released just ahead of World Children’s Day on 20 November, Averting a Lost COVID Generation is the first UNICEF report to comprehensively outline the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic drags on.
It shows that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.
“Since the pandemic started, there has been a false belief that children are not affected by COVID-19,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “Nothing can be further from the truth, including in Nigeria. While children are less likely to have severe symptoms of illness, they can be infected – and the biggest impact by far is the disruptions to key services and increasing poverty rates, which are both having a huge impact on Nigerian children’s education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk – globally and in Nigeria.”
The new UNICEF report finds that, as of 3 November, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for 1 in 9 of COVID-19 infections, or 11 per cent of the 25.7 million infections reported by these countries. In Nigeria, children in the same age group accounted for 1 in 10 infections, or 11.3 percent of total infections.
While children can transmit the virus to each other and to older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them, the report notes. Schools are not a main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings.
COVID-related disruptions to critical health and social services for children pose the most serious threat to children, the report said.