Issues Affecting Children Globally
Children all over the world were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After analyzing the reports of international organizations, such as UNICEF, WHO, and Human Rights Watch, we can define the following issues that affect children in every region of the world to some degree:
• Domestic violence
o Economic hardships and additional stresses caused by the COVID-19 crisis increase the risk of domestic violence. There is a global increase in cases of abuse, including both towards children or between parents. Moreover, it is harder to detect child abuse because of the pandemic. Children might stop communicating with the outside world due to quarantine, closure of schools and other educational facilities, and reduction of monitoring by child protection agencies.
o The COVID-29 pandemic disrupted the normal education process and resulted in many children having limited or no access to education. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 91 percent of the world’s students were at some point out of school due to school closures in at least 188 countries.
o About half of the world has no Internet access. The countries with low Internet access, emergency preparedness, and availability of learning materials could not provide an adequate substitution to in-person classes.
o Moreover, even in more wealthy countries, many public schools did not have the necessary equipment and staff training to use online learning platforms.
• Child Labor and Child Marriage
o The COVID-19 crisis and caused by its economic crisis lead to increasing poverty rates and unemployment. This is predicted to lead to rising rates of child labor and early child marriage.
• Orphaned Children
o Because of a surge of deaths caused by COVID-19, many children were orphaned, which leaves them without parental protection. Moreover, because of the pandemic, states often cannot adequately accommodate such children. It creates a threat of child trafficking and other forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation and using children as an illegal labor force.
• Disrupted Health Systems
o As the COVID-19 pandemic presents a heavy burden on healthcare systems, other life-saving health services, and immunizations become unobtainable to many children. This might lead to increased deaths from HIV / AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other life-threatening diseases.
• Online Sexual Exploitation
o Because children are spending more time online during the pandemic and often experience significant emotional stress and loneliness, as well as possible increased economic hardships, they are much more vulnerable to online predators.
o Increases risk of children’s exposure to pornographic materials. Such content is harmful to children. Eat might cause problems with mental health, perpetuate sexism and objectification, and lead to sexual violence. Children might learn unhealthy patterns of behavior and internalize abusive and misogynistic practices.
• Refugee/Migrant and Incarcerated Children
o Millions of children are held in the justice system, orphanages, and immigration detention centers. Many of these places are overcrowded, have limited access to water and sanitation, and don’t provide adequate COVID-19 prevention measures.
• Hunger and Malnutrition
o Malnutrition continues to affect an enormous number of children. Young children may bear the burden of malnutrition throughout their lives and may never reach their full physical and intellectual potential. Malnutrition manifests because of food shortages, improper feeding methods, and infections often exacerbated by poverty, humanitarian crises, and conflicts. In many cases, it leads to death.
o Before the COVID-19, the world had already experienced extreme hunger. Even at the beginning of 2020, about 1 billion people in low- and lower-middle-income countries suffered from hunger. These numbers skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic.
• Climate Change
o Climate change and environmental degradation have already posed a threat to people living in the poorest regions. COVID-19 has worsened the situation. Millions of children live in areas with a high risk of flooding or in drought-severity zones. The hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic will only exacerbate the toll of living under such conditions.
• Arsenic Contamination
o Arsenic is a highly poisonous substance. However, arsenic contamination is invisible, tasteless, and odorless, and the effects might not be seen in the short term. But arsenic poisoning might lead to arsenicosis and increase risks of cancer, lung, heart, and other diseases. Nowadays, it was discovered that groundwater of at least 70 countries contains dangerously high levels of arsenic.
o Increased xenophobia and discrimination are another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The affected children before, especially migrant children, and others who looked different from or spoke a language other than the predominant population. However, the fear of sickness and infection increased by the pandemic only heightens the risk of cruel treatment or discrimination of such children.