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While the world was gripped by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, children continued to face the same crisis they have for decades: intolerably high mortality rates and vastly inequitable chances at life. In total, more than 5.0 million children under age 5, including 2.4 million newborns, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24 years – 43 per cent of whom are adolescents – died in 2020. This tragic and massive loss of life, most of which was due to preventable or treatable causes, is a stark reminder of the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children and young people. Data gaps remain a serious challenge to child mortality estimation and monitoring. Almost two thirds of low and middle income countries (97 out of 135) have no reliable mortality data in the past three years. And just 40 countries had high-quality national data for 2020 included in the estimation model, though national or subnational data were available for more than 80 countries or areas to help analyse excess mortality due to COVID-19.
Cara Ebert; Janina I. Steinert
This action brief summarizes the latest status and trends of key areas related to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being from a global perspective. It aims to promote coordinated action among global and national partners to recognize and overcome the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, children and adolescents and to accelerate progress to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rise, Respond, Recover is an update to Protect the Progress: 2020 progress report on Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Childrens’ and Adolescents’ Health (September 2020), capturing key evidence points presented in May 2021 to the World Health Assembly as well as top priorities and activities among partners.
This global progress report on water, sanitation, hygiene, waste management and cleaning (WASH) in health care facilities comes at an unprecedented moment, when coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is exposing key vulnerabilities in health systems, such as inadequate infection prevention and control. WASH services in health care facilities, so often taken for granted – or as this report highlights, outright neglected – are needed more than ever to protect vulnerable health workers and patients. The report identifies major global gaps in WASH services: one third of health care facilities do not have what is needed to clean hands where care is provided; one in four facilities lack basic water services, and one in 10 have no sanitation services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion school-age children in more than 190 countries. Already last year, 250 million school-age children being out of school, the world was facing a “learning crisis”. But now with the COVID-19 pandemic, this crisis could turn into a generational catastrophe. While many children will continue with their education once schools reopen, others may never return to school. Current estimates indicate that 24 million children will never return to the classroom and among those, disproportional number of girls. To avert this crisis, we need to reimagine how we deliver good quality and inclusive education to the world children. Among other things, this calls for urgent investments in school health and nutrition programmes and create the conditions for children to lead healthy lives. This also includes health and nutrition literacy offered through the curriculum and through counselling in the school health services which provides young people with knowledge, skills, values, culture and behaviours they need to lead healthy, empowered lives.
There is a high risk that the COVID-19 pandemic may reverse decades-long progress on reducing child mortality and affect the number of stillbirths. This new release of the first-ever joint stillbirth estimates by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) presents the number of babies that are stillborn every year due to pregnancy and birth-related complications, the absence of health workers and basic services. The issue has become an essential part of global child survival initiatives. UNICEF calls on international organizations, governments and partners for increased and strong political will, sound policies and targeted investment along the continuum of care for every mother and child.
This brief provides guidance for governments, policymakers, UN agencies and development partners to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as an integral part of the COVID-19 response and in broader efforts for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease, are amplifying the impacts of COVID-19, and COVID-19 is exacerbating the burden of NCDs, particularly in already disadvantaged communities. Almost one fourth (22%) of the global population is estimated to have an underlying condition that increases their vulnerability to COVID-19, and most of these conditions are NCDs. Urgent action across sectors is needed to address the root causes of NCDs and increase access to affordable and quality treatments and prevention.
There have been dramatic reductions in child and youth mortality over the last 29 years. Globally, under-five mortality has dropped by 59% since 1990—from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births then to 38 deaths in 2019. Initial evidence suggests that the impact of COVID-19 on direct mortality for children and youth may be small, but indirect effects can be severe. Many life-saving services have already been disrupted by COVID-19.
UNICEF Innocenti's Children and COVID-19 Library is a database collecting research from around the world on COVID-19 and its impacts on children and adolescents.
Read the latest quarterly digest on violence against children and women during COVID-19.
The first digest covers children and youth mental health under COVID-19.
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COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response