Backward Slide on Children’s Health, Rights

The pandemic has marked the “biggest global crisis for children” in UNICEF’s history, plunging 100 million more children into poverty and pushing back progress on health, access to education, nutrition, child protection, and mental well-being, UN News reports.
“In a year in which we should be looking forward, we are going backward,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, ahead of the agency’s 75th anniversary tomorrow. In a damning new report, UNICEF documents the pandemic’s toll on children:

  • 23 million+ children missed out on essential vaccines in 2020—the highest number in more than a decade.
  • Critical mental health services were halted or disrupted in 93% of all countries.
  • Up to 10 million additional child marriages could occur before 2030.
  • 8.4 million more children subjected to child labor in the last 4 years.
  • ~1 billion children—nearly half worldwide—live in countries at “extremely high-risk” from climate change.

Even in a best-case scenario, it will take 7–8 years to recover and return to pre-COVID child poverty levels.
To avert a “decade lost,” Fore said, we must “keep children first in line for investment and last in line for cuts.” A sampling of the report’s recommendations:

  • Boost primary health care
  • Ambitious national childhood vaccination plans
  • More support for pre-primary education
  • Put children’s rights and needs at the center of climate and environmental policy
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