UNICEF head warns pandemic is making a global childcare crisis even worse

by Freya Lucas

July 23, 2020

Following the release of a UN study showing that at least 40 million children have missed out on early childhood education and care due to measures put in place to combat COVID-19, Henrietta Fore has warned that the pandemic is “making a global childcare crisis even worse”. 

 

The study explores the state of childcare and early childhood education globally, and includes an analysis of the significant disruption that widespread closures of these vital family services, due to the pandemic, are having. 

 

Many parents have been left struggling to balance childcare and paid employment as a result of the pandemic, however a larger burden of care has been placed on women who, on average, spend more than three times longer on care and housework than men. 

 

In less affluent countries, the closures of such vital services has made life even harder for many families with young children, for whom education settings are an essential provider of a range of services beyond the obvious, including nutrition, stimulation and the development of social, emotional and cognitive skills.

 

The study showed that, in 54 low- and middle-income countries with recent data, around 40 per cent of children aged between three and five years of age were not receiving social-emotional and cognitive stimulation from any adult in their household.

 

For many women in less developed countries, a lack of formal education and care leaves them with no form of social protection, and having to bring their young children to work, with more than 90 per cent of women in Africa and almost 70 per cent of women in Asia and the Pacific affected. 

 

UNICEF is calling for all children to have access to affordable and quality childcare, from birth to their entry into the first grade of school. In the report the agency is offering guidance for governments and employers, on improving childcare and early childhood education policies.

 

Core recommendations from the report include: 

  • The provision of high-quality, and affordable, childcare centres; 
  • Paid parental leave for all parents; 
  • Flexible work arrangements that address the needs of working parents; and, 
  • Social protection systems, including cash transfers that reach families working in the informal sector.

 

Childcare and early childhood education, Ms Fore said, “build a foundation upon which every aspect of children’s development relies” however the pandemic is “putting that foundation under serious threat”. 

 

To read the study in full, please see here

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