Report Reveals Children ‘Ignored’ by Governments During COVID-19 Response

Report Reveals Children ‘Ignored’ by Governments During COVID-19 Response
A young girl paints a picture of herself on the school window as children of key workers take part in school activities at Oldfield Brow Primary School in Altrincham, England, on April 8, 2020. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Lily Zhou
Children and young people were “forgotten by decision-makers” during the COVID-19 pandemic because they were not considered to be “at risk” from a public health perspective, a report said.
The study, published by researchers led by Professor Lauren Andres at University College London, reviewed reports and literature on how COVID-19 affected young people across the world, focusing on monetary poor children and young people in England, Brazil, and South Africa.
The report said children and young people were “ignored in mainstream policy streams” as they were seen “more as transmitters than receivers of the virus,” and were “disproportionately affected socially, forgotten by decision-makers in most countries and hit the hardest economically.”
After COVID-19 spread worldwide in 2020, many national or local governments have used lockdowns, including school closure, and social distancing as part of their responses.
For children and young people, such guidance “translated into disruptions to schooling, food chains being broken, and significantly diminished opportunities for play and leisure outside the home,” the report said.
In England, schooling was affected by a series of national and regional lockdowns. After schools reopened, students and pupils were subject to social distancing rules and had to stay at home when they or their classmates tested positive for COVID-19.
“Access to education and food was significantly impacted and the range of support schemes took too long to be equally implemented to address the immediate challenges faced by schools and tackle the dramatic rise of food poverty,” the report said, noting play “was by far the most ignored aspect.”
“The impact of the pandemic will have detrimental consequences for children and young people in the short and long-term, with many not yet visible,” the report said. “It will have continuing consequences for their future in terms of professional life trajectories, healthy lifestyles, mental well-being, educational opportunities, self-confidence and more besides.”
It comes after former Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies told the UK COVID-19 Inquiry that COVID-19 measures including lockdowns have “damaged a generation” of children.
Studies have found a range of negative impacts on British children such as the rise of eating disorders and self-harm in teens, and retardation of early development in babies and toddlers.

Global Impact

According to the report, schools in England scrambled to distribute 220,000 laptops, some 1.3 million more devices, over 76,000 wireless routers, as well as internet passes and data plans to help pupils without access to computers at home.
And children in less developed countries had to rely more on other methods such as television and radio programmes, printed materials, and phone calls from their teachers.
According to the researchers’ analysis of UNESCO data, the global average for school closure during the COVID-19 pandemic was around 142 days fully closed, 151 days partially closed.
“Nearly 1 billion children in low and middle-income countries missed at least one year of in-person schooling,” the report said.
It also said 39 billion in-school meals had been missed in 2020.
The report said school closure affected “all types and levels of education,” with vocational courses being “most at-risk given the difficulties in delivering such practical skills through distance learning.”
“Overall, across the globe, children and young people saw their education, access to food, play and leisure being transformed, reduced, with significant medium and long-term impact on their life trajectories,” the report said.
Researchers said the impact will go “beyond the food/education/play-leisure nexus” and include issues such as obesity, mental health, missed critical vaccines, domestic violence, orphanhood, and youth unemployment.
The report recommended decision-makers put children and young people at “the forefront of political changes” and the “centre of pandemic preparedness efforts and political processes of rights assurance in contexts of ongoing and future crisis.”
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