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Gilmar Zambrana Cruz; Gwyther Rees
All children are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, often in multiple ways.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a universal crisis that has been devastating for children, families and communities, and shows no signs of abating as 2021 approaches. Examining the available evidence to understand the potential and actual societal effects on children and identifying viable evidence-based solutions are critical pathways to inform timely policy and programmatic responses. This Executive Summary of the UNICEF Innocenti report Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents provides a review of literature on the societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as past health and economic shocks, and possible solutions for mitigating impact at individual, household and societal levels.
The evidence base on the societal impacts of the pandemic is still nascent. For children, it is weaker still, largely due to the paucity of age-disaggregated data and the relatively low number of paediatric studies, particularly in low- and middle-income countries and especially beyond the biomedical sphere. Consequently, in order to best inform child-sensitive responses, we also examined evidence from prior epidemics and shocks to find insights to inform the current COVID-19 crisis. We looked at the prior societal impacts of previous infectious disease epidemics, including Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS and tuberculosis, and particularly HIV/AIDS where there is a very robust evidence base.
While there are promising signs of potential breakthroughs for vaccines, rapid non-invasive tests and treatment options – all of which will help to slow and address the impacts of the pandemic – it is likely to be a long time before these interventions are available to all children and families, and particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged. As a result, there is an urgent need to find scalable and cost-effective solutions to the continued and deepening impact of the COVID-19 crisis on them.
Anna Gromada; Gwyther Rees; Yekaterina Chzhen
A new look at children from the world’s richest countries offers a mixed picture of their health, skills and happiness. For far too many, issues such as poverty, exclusion and pollution threaten their mental well-being, physical health and opportunities to develop skills. Even countries with good social, economic and environmental conditions are a long way from meeting the targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Focused and accelerated action is needed if these goals are to be met.
The evidence from 41 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) countries tells its own story: from children’s chances of survival, growth and protection, to whether they are learning and feel listened to, to whether their parents have the support and resources to give their children the best chance for a healthy, happy childhood. This report reveals children’s experiences against the backdrop of their country’s policies and social, educational, economic and environmental contexts.
Carolina Alban Conto; Spogmai Akseer; Thomas Dreesen; Akito Kamei; Suguru Mizunoya; Annika Rigole
While remote learning measures are essential for mitigating the short-term and long-term consequences of COVID-19 school closures, little is known about their impact on and effectiveness for learning.
This working paper contributes to filling this gap by: 1. Exploring how disrupted schooling may affect foundational learning skills, using data from MICS6 (Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys - round 6) in 2017–2019; 2. Examining how countries are delivering and monitoring remote learning based on data from the UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank’s National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures survey; and 3. Presenting promising key practices for the effective delivery and monitoring of remote learning.
Atsuko Muroga; Htet Thiha Zaw; Suguru Mizunoya; Hsiao-Chen Lin; Mathieu Brossard; Nicolas Reuge
Shivit Bakrania; Cirenia Chávez; Alessandra Ipince; Matilde Rocca; Sandy Oliver; Claire Stansfield; Ramya Subrahmanian
This protocol details the aims, scope and methodology used for the rapid review titled: “Impacts of Pandemics and Epidemics on Child Protection: Lessons learned from a rapid review in the context of COVID-19."
This rapid review collates and synthesizes evidence on the child protection impacts of COVID-19 and previous pandemics, epidemics and infectious disease outbreaks. It provides lessons for global and national responses to COVID19 and recommendations for future research priorities.
The evidence on the impacts of pandemics and epidemics on child protection outcomes is limited and skewed towards studies on the effects of HIV/AIDS on stigma. There is also some evidence on the effects of Ebola on outcomes such as orphanhood, sexual violence and exploitation, and school enrolment, attendance and dropout. The evidence on other pandemics or epidemics, including COVID-19, is extremely limited.
There are various pathways through which infectious disease outbreaks can exacerbate vulnerabilities, generate new risks and result in negative outcomes for children. Outcomes are typically multi-layered, with immediate outcomes for children, families and communities - such as being orphaned, stigmatization and discrimination and reductions in household income - leading to further negative risks and outcomes for children in the intermediate term. These risks include child labour and domestic work, harmful practices (including early marriage), and early and adolescent pregnancy.
Lessons from previous pandemics and epidemics suggest that the following could mitigate the child protection risks:
There is a high burden of proof for data collection during the current COVID-19 outbreak than there would be in normal circumstances. Evidence generation strategies during and after the COVID-19 crisis should consider rigorous retrospective reviews and building upon monitoring, evidence and learning functions of pre-existing programmes – particularly where there is ongoing longitudinal data collection. There should also be efforts to synthesize evidence from existing research on the effectiveness of interventions that respond to the key risk pathways identified in this review.
Dominic Richardson; Victor Cebotari; Alessandro Carraro; Kaku Attah Damoah
Dita Nugroho; Chiara Pasquini; Nicolas Reuge; Diogo Amaro
Some countries are starting to reopen schools as others develop plans to do so following widespread and extended closures due to COVID-19. Using data from two surveys and 164 countries, this research brief describes the educational strategies countries are putting into place, or plan to, in order to mitigate learning impacts of extended school closures, particularly for the most vulnerable children. In addition, it highlights emerging good practices.
Asif Saeed Memon; Annika Rigole; Taleen Vartan Nakashian; Wongani Grace Taulo; Cirenia Chávez; Suguru Mizunoya
Anna Gromada; Dominic Richardson; Gwyther Rees
The COVID-19 crisis that has engulfed the world during 2020 challenges children’s education, care and well-being. Many parents struggle to balance their responsibilities for childcare and paid employment, with a disproportionate burden placed on women. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation of families had been described as ‘a global childcare crisis’.
It is estimated that over 35 million children under five years old are sometimes left without adult supervision, a factor often linked to economic pressures on parents to work. With the arrival of the pandemic, 99 per cent of the world’s 2.36 billion children found themselves in a country with some movement restrictions, including 60 per cent under some form of lockdown. This has made childcare an even greater challenge for parents.
Globally, the work of childcare is done predominantly by women. This includes mothers and also other female caregivers such as grandmothers, siblings and workers in the childcare sector. In 2018, 606 million working-age women considered themselves to be unavailable for employment or not seeking a job because of unpaid care work, compared to only 41 million men. This imbalance has major implications for women’s employment and income opportunities and for children’s development and well-being.
UNICEF has previously called for a set of four family-friendly policies for children in the early years, comprising paid parental leave; breastfeeding support; accessible, affordable and good-quality childcare; and child benefits. We have shown that even some of the world’s richest countries fare poorly in terms of these policies, which is a reflection of their policy priorities rather than available resources.
This brief takes a global perspective on one of these four aspects – childcare in the early years. In the current context of lockdown and school closures, lack of childcare is likely to be one of the worst affected services available to families. This paper paints a picture of current progress towards ensuring that all families have access to affordable and high-quality childcare, and considers the implications of the current COVID-19 crisis for childcare globally. We show how governments and employers can help parents to address theglobal childcare crisis through paid parental leave, followed by accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare. COVID-19 economic recovery packages have, to date, directed the vast majority of resources to firms rather than to households. This can be changed through public provision of childcare, subsidies, social protection floors and tax incentives.
Shivit Bakrania; Ramya Subrahmanian
This research brief summarizes the findings of a rapid review that collates and synthesizes evidence on the child protection impacts of COVID-19 and previous pandemics, epidemics and infectious disease outbreaks. It provides lessons for global and national responses to COVID19 and recommendations for future research priorities.
The evidence on the impacts of pandemics and epidemics on child protection outcomes is limited and skewed towards studies on the effects of HIV/AIDS on stigma. There is also some evidence on the effects of Ebola on outcomes such as orphanhood, sexual violence and exploitation, and school enrolment, attendance and dropout. The evidence on other pandemics or epidemics, including COVID-19. is extremely limited.
Priscilla Idele; David Anthony; Lynne M Mofenson; Jennifer Requejo; Danzhen You; Chewe Luo; Stefan Peterson
Priscilla Idele; David Anthony; Kaku Attah Damoah; Danzhen You
Contrary to the current narrative, the risks of COVID-19 disease in children and young people depend largely on where individuals live and how vulnerable they are to disease and ill health.
It is commonly accepted, at least for now, that children and young people under 20 years of age have largely been spared the direct epidemiological effects on their own health and survival of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19 disease. This narrative is based predominantly on early data from the countries first affected by the virus, notably China (Wuhan province) and Italy in early 2020, and also from other high-income countries (HICs) including the United States and some European nations. This narrative has conditioned the subsequent screening and testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus in children and young people under 20, which have been notably lower than for other age cohorts in many, but not all, countries. But demographic profiles differ widely between countries, and assumptions and narratives based on evidence taken from ageing societies, typical of HICs, may not hold for more youthful and growing populations, as illustrated by the contrast between the age-cohort profiles of COVID-19 cases for Italy and Kenya. For this reason, and given that the vast majority of the world’s children and young people live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and territories, we began to investigate the burden of COVID-19 cases among children and young people under 20 globally.
Daniel Kardefelt Winther ; Rogers Twesigye; Rostislav Zlámal; Marium Saeed; David Smahel; Mariya Stoilova; Sonia Livingstone
Children’s digital access – or lack thereof – during the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly determined whether children can continue their education, seek information, stay in touch with friends and family, and enjoy digital entertainment. With over 1.5 billion children across 190 countries confined to their homes, active video games or dance videos may also be their best chance to exercise. The rationale for closing digital divides has never been starker or more urgent.
This data-driven research brief explores three research questions.
1) How much do we know about children’s basic access to the internet across
the globe? 2) Do children regularly use the internet to access health
information? 3) Are children able to verify the truth of online information?
The brief analyzes survey data from the ITU
World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators database, as well as household-survey
data collected from approximately 22,000 children aged 12-16, generated by the
collective work of the EU Kids Online and Global Kids Online research networks.
It concludes with recommendations on how stakeholders can ensure that children’s
health information needs are better supported during the COVID-19 pandemic and
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.
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COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response