(19 November 2020) From health to education, every child in the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many impacted in multiple ways. As the crisis rages on, further entrenching pre-existing inequalities, there is an urgent need for scalable and cost-effective solutions for children. Such solutions require more evidence on COVID-19, which is not yet available. A new report by the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti, Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents, examines past health crises (such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola) to provide insights into COVID-19, and proposes proven and promising solutions.
The report paints a comprehensive picture of the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic on children and adolescents. Recognising that many children are affected in multiple ways, the report explores how these impacts overlap and interact with each other. Given that children are starting at different points, the report also asks how policies can help mitigate or exacerbate pre-existing inequities and vulnerabilities.
“It is becoming ever clearer that children are greatly affected by COVID,” said UNICEF Innocenti’s Deputy Director, Priscilla Idele. “The Beyond Masks report improves our understanding of COVID’s devastating societal effects and helps focus our attention on evidence-informed solutions to mitigate its multiple impacts on children.”
Accelerator solutions to a multi-faceted problem
COVID-19 is not just a health emergency. The world has been suddenly enveloped in concurrent social, economic, and financial crises. To respond to this unprecedented global situation, “accelerator solutions” that are low-cost, scalable, and address multiple vulnerabilities are needed. “What we found was encouraging,” Idele added. “We identified several interventions that simultaneously support multiple dimensions of a child’s life and rights at the same time.”
- Solutions should be at the individual, household, community and societal levels and should be adapted for delivery in contexts of sustained poverty, weakened government capacity, social distancing/physical distancing and movement restrictions.
- Rapid innovation and evidence-building is needed to adapt evidence-based interventions to a COVID-19 context and should include digital adaptation and infrastructure strengthening.
- It is also critical to collect disaggregated data on children and young people and invest in research to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on their health and well-being.
- Accelerator provisions including social protection, parenting support and psychosocial/mental health support, among others, can help mitigate the negative consequences of COVID-19 on children and adolescents.
UNICEF’s Six-Point Plan
The report complements UNICEF’s new Data and Advocacy Brief and accompanying Six-Point Plan to Respond, Recover and Reimagine a Post-Pandemic World for Every Child. Together, these outline the major challenges facing children and the key steps needed to respond to COVID-19, recover in a way that protects and upholds child rights, and reimagine a better future for every child.
UNICEF’s Six-Point Plan calls on governments and partners to:
- Ensure all children learn, including by closing the digital divide.
- Guarantee access to health and nutrition services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child.
- Support and protect the mental health of children and young people and bring an end to abuse, gender-based violence and neglect in childhood.
- Increase access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene and address environmental degradation and climate change.
- Reverse the rise in child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery for all.
- Redouble efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflict, disaster and displacement.
Policy Panel Discussion
The Beyond Masks report, will be launched virtually with a high-level policy panel discussion on 19 November, 2020. Panellists, including Vikram Patel, Lucie Cluver, Lorraine Sherr, Mark Tomlinson, and Prerna Banati, will discuss how the report’s findings can shape national and subnational policy responses, as well as individual, family, and community behaviours.
- Read the new report Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents.
- Find out more about the Beyond Masks policy panel discussion.
- Discover UNICEF Innocenti’s work on COVID-19 and Children.