‘A Fair Share for Children: Preventing the loss of a generation to COVID-19’, written for Laureates and Leaders, demonstrates the shocking inequality of the world’s response to protect the futures of hundreds of millions of children.
The report details the potential short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s most marginalised children. Of the US$8.02 trillion in financial relief announced to date, primarily by G20 countries, less than 1% has been allocated to the poorest children. Only 0.13%, or US$10.2 billion, has been specifically allocated to multilateral COVID-19 appeals for those most vulnerable to the pandemic-induced economic crisis.
This unequal response could result in an unprecedented child rights disaster.
Civil society, UN agencies, and other multilateral organisations have worked quickly to publish a wealth of information and projections spanning the full breadth of human development issues. The Fair Share for Children report brings these together to demonstrate the scale of devastation that the global economic response to COVID-19 will have on the world’s poorest children.
- The world economy is expected to contract by 5.2% this year; if the pandemic endures beyond 2020 and the economy contracts further, up to 400 million people are at risk of slipping into extreme poverty.
- 2 billion people work in the informal economy, which has seen a 60% drop in average incomes. Families that no longer have any income from work are already facing starvation – despite the availability of food.
- 347 million children are still not able to access school feeding programmes due to school closures.
- When families cannot put food on the table, the youngest children are set to suffer the most: 1.2 million more children under the age of 5 are projected to die from undernutrition in the next 6 months alone.
- Interrupted immunisation schemes have put c. 80 million children aged one or younger at risk of disease.
- School closures – for children with access – are still affecting c.1 billion children. Over 400 million children have been unable to access online learning programmes due to lack of internet access at home.
- Massive reductions in household incomes will prevent the poorest families sending their children back to school, leaving them vulnerable to child labour, slavery, trafficking, and child marriage. Where lockdowns have eased, child labourers are already being trafficked back to work.
- Incidents of violence or abuse of children have risen steeply during lockdowns; victims are being left without respite from their abuser in the absence of the protection that school offers them, and they have suffered the double blow of limited or no access to protection services.
- Over 30 million children are refugees or internally displaced. Already subject to the same multiple deprivations as non-displaced poor children – lack of access to learning, reduced access to food, the threats of being forced into child marriage or child labour and trafficking – they have even fewer means to protect themselves against the virus or its wider impacts.
The report shows that the realisation of a fair share of the global financial response to COVID-19 would be transformative. In March, the G20 countries announced an initial COVID-19 economic response of US$5 trillion. If world leaders allocated just 20% of this initial package to the 20% most marginalised children in the world, it would provide US$1 trillion, which is enough to fully fund the UN COVID-19 appeals, provide two years of debt cancellation for the poorest countries, support two years of the financing gap for the UN Sustainable Development Goals on education and clean water and sanitation, establish a new global fund for social protection, cover the manufacture and supply for a global COVID-19 vaccination programme, and fund a decade of the health SDG financing gap. This could save over 70 million lives.