(ORDO NEWS) — At least 5.2 million children worldwide have lost parents, grandparents, or family members who helped care for them, to Covid-19, a new study says.
The study, published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, examined Covid-19 mortality data in 21 countries from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to October 2021 and estimated the number of children who have lost parents or caregivers. From the end of April 2020 to the end of October 2021, the number of affected children increased by 90%.
Although the study went off topic, real-time data obtained using the same model suggests that as of January, the number of children who have lost a parent or guardian is about 6.7 million. This “heartbreaking hidden pandemic,” as its authors call it, is outpacing the total number of Covid-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The study follows an earlier analysis published in July. The authors said they felt it was necessary to update it because “the spread of new variants of the coronavirus, updated mortality data and disparities in access to vaccines have increased the number of children orphaned by Covid-19.”
The authors – among them researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, the World Bank, University College London and others – believe their estimate is conservative. Many countries lack a reliable death registration system. For example, it is believed that the death rate from covid-19 in Africa is 10 times higher than is known.
Of the children who lost their parents, three out of four lost their fathers. Teenagers and teenagers were the most likely to become orphans: two out of three children who lost their parents were teenagers. Previous research has shown that in the US, these losses disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority communities.
The authors say public health leaders should keep these children in mind when planning for the future. Generally, when children lose a caregiver, their risk of poverty and mental health problems increases, as well as their vulnerability to exploitation and sexual abuse. In some cases, the loss of a parent may also increase the likelihood that a child will be involved in gangs or violent extremists.
“We estimate that for every person who dies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one child who is orphaned or lost a guardian.
This is equivalent to every six seconds one child is at increased risk of lifelong disadvantage if they are not provided with appropriate support,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Susan Hillis, who worked on it at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Support for orphans should immediately be included in every national COVID-19 response plan.”
Plans should include ensuring equal access to vaccines so that no child loses a parent, the study says.
Societies must also ensure that these children have the support they need to cope with the r
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