HRW warns of ‘far reaching, long term impact’ of COVID-19 on children around the world
The impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to have far-reaching, long-term negative impacts on children around the world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released earlier this month.
Despite evidence showing that children who contract COVID-19 appear to have less severe symptoms and lower mortality rates than other age groups, the impact of lack of access to early education opportunities, widespread job and income losses, and economic insecurity in families will impact children.
Stresses on families, particularly those living under quarantines and lockdowns, are increasing the incidence of domestic violence, and as the global death toll from COVID-19 increases, large numbers of children will be orphaned and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Children’s Rights Advocacy Director for HRW, Jo Becker, said the risks posed to children by the pandemic “are enormous”, urging governments to “act urgently to protect children during the pandemic, but also to consider how their decisions now will best uphold children’s rights after the crisis ends”.
Child abuse is less likely to be detected during the COVID-19 crisis, as child protection agencies have reduced monitoring to avoid spreading the virus, and educators are less able to detect signs of ill treatment without face to face access to children.
Added family stresses related to the COVID-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home, including both between partners and by caregivers against children.
HRW has called on governments the world over to support children’s rights by adopting measures including, but not limited, to:
- Prioritising efforts to continue education for all children, using all available technology;
- Providing economic assistance, including cash transfers, to low-income families that will be hit first and hardest, to help them meet basic needs without resorting to child labor or child marriage; and,
- Minimising disruptions in children’s access to essential and life-saving healthcare services.
“A rights-respecting response to the COVID-19 crisis will not only alleviate potentially far-reaching harm during the pandemic, but can also benefit children over the long term,” HRW said.
“The choices governments make now are crucial, not only to mitigate the worst harm of the pandemic, but also to benefit children over the long term,” Ms Becker concluded.