A global study estimates that 1.5 million children have lost their parents or grandparents to Covid-19
“Covid-19 has caused this urgent crisis affecting children in nearly every country,” Dr. Susan Hillis of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response team, who worked on the study, told CNN.
“For every two deaths from Covid-19, a child faces the death of a parent or caregiver.”
The team – including researchers from the CDC, the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, University College London and elsewhere – counted deaths in 21 countries that account for more than 76% of all Covid cases. They used methods developed and validated years ago to estimate the number of children globally made orphaned by AIDS to predict the number of Covid-19 orphans.
Children who have lost a parent or caregiver are not only immediately stressed; They are more likely to contract disease themselves, to be abused, and to suffer from poverty, the researchers said.
“There are very serious consequences,” Hillis said. “The consequences of all these ordeals often last a lifetime,” she added.
“Children who lose primary caregivers have greater risks of experiencing mental health problems; physical, emotional, and sexual violence; and family poverty,” the team wrote. “These negative experiences increase the risks of suicide, teenage pregnancy, infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, and chronic diseases.”
They added that grandparents are more important than might initially appear. “In the United States, 40% of grandparents who live with grandchildren serve as their primary caregivers; in the United Kingdom, 40% of grandparents provide regular care for grandchildren,” the researchers wrote.
But the pandemic has damaged the ability to provide this unwanted level of care to children. “However, public health responses to the pandemic, such as stay-at-home orders and restrictions on conducting remote child protection assessments, have severely reduced the ability of existing child protection systems and services to provide much-needed child safety interventions and support,” the report reads.
The researchers added: “These 1.5 million children are the tragic, overlooked outcome of more than 3 million COVID-19-related deaths by April 30, 2021.” “Deaths of orphans and caregivers is a hidden pandemic of deaths related to COVID-19.”
What to do about it? First, the researchers recommend the following: get everyone’s Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, and help prevent infection in other ways including using masks and social distancing.
“Once the primary caregiver becomes seriously ill with COVID-19, or the family is seriously affected by other factors associated with the pandemic, that family should receive a comprehensive assessment including testing, tracing, and appropriate and subsidized quarantine of exposed family members. The family must be supported in setting A plan for how to care for the children if the caregiver dies.”
The report recommends that societies need to assist families affected by the pandemic with economic, educational, and mental health support.
The researchers said that low-cost services to provide all of these services are already available and there is evidence to support what works.