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Lives upended - how COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian children

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Report summary1

The lives and futures of children across South Asia are threatened by the COVID-19 crisis. While they may be less susceptible to the virus itself, children are being profoundly affected by the economic and social consequences of ‘lockdowns’ and other measures taken to counter the pandemic. The knock-on economic and other effects of COVID-19 compromise the hard-won progress in advancing children’s rights that South Asia has made in recent decades. With the pandemic expanding rapidly across a region that contains a quarter of the world’s population, UNICEF's Lives Upended report describes the disastrous immediate and longer-term consequences that the virus and the measures to curb it have had on 600 million children and the services that they depend on. 

In terms of nutrition, the massive loss of jobs and income has made it harder than ever for poorer families to provide nutritious meals for their children. Rising food prices and scattered disruption to transport links and markets have made the task even more challenging. Even before the arrival of COVID-19, malnutrition was a grim fact of life for children throughout South Asia. Across the region, an estimated 7.7 million children under five years of age suffer from severe wasting and over 56 million – one third of all children in that age group – are stunted. A rise in severe wasting has been noticed, due to both the disruption of services and the fact that caretakers are not seeking treatment – for example, in Bangladesh there was a 90% drop in admissions for severely wasted children between February and a 15% rise in the prevalence of severe wasting over the past one year.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed critical, longstanding child-related issues in the region, as well as opportunities to respond. To tackle child undernutrition in the region national health systems must deliver essential nutrition services alongside cash transfers or other social protection measures to ensure that enough nutritious food in vulnerable families for young children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers alike.

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1 Simon Ingram. LIVES UPENDED: How COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian children. UNICEF, June 2020

 

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Lives upended - how COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian children. Field Exchange 63, October 2020. p89. www.ennonline.net/fex/63/livesupendedcovid19

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