NEW DELHI: Nearly 12% of Covid-19 infections in India are among children and adolescents under 20 years whereas globally, they accounted for 11% of infections, a new report by Unicef analysing data from 87 countries showed, underlining that the pandemic may have impacted the health of children and young people more directly than originally anticipated.
Besides, disruptions to essential services such as education, healthcare, nutrition and child protection interventions were also harming children, the report said.
“The impact of the pandemic will affect children’s lives for years to come, even if a breakthrough vaccine becomes available soon. How the world responds now to the myriad risks that the pandemic poses to children and adolescents will determine their future,” the Unicef report titled ‘Averting a Lost Covid Generation’ said.
In India, 1.5 million school closures have impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary education and 28 million children who were attending pre-school education in anganwadi centres.
Globally, 90% of children were impacted due to school closure because of Covid-19, including 743 million girls. More than 111 million of them are in the least developed countries.
Experts said school closures, travel curbs and other Covid control measures and their economic impacts would lead to many cases of childhood malnutrition, while India is already struggling to combat issues like wasting, stunting and child deaths.
“We know that health systems are strained by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we must not allow our fight against one deadly disease to come at the expense of our fight against other preventable diseases. This means ensuring the continuity of immunisation services to prevent all vaccine-preventable diseases, even as we address the growing Covid pandemic,” Unicef India representative, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, said.
The report estimated that around two million additional child deaths under five years and two lakh additional stillbirths around the world could occur over a 12-month period with worst-case interruptions to services and malnutrition.