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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented situation whereby schooling has been disrupted for almost 1.6 billion children and youth as governments enforce total or partial closures of schools in efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Higher education institutions have also suspended classes. As of late April, UNESCO estimates that 91% of those enrolled in formal education programmes have been affected. The closure of schools, universities, technical and vocational training institutes has also affected refugee learners and students. In these challenging times, displaced and refugee students are at a particular disadvantage and there is a risk that progress in increased enrolment may be eroded. The suspension of school feeding programmes could affect the nutrition and health status of refugee children and youth. Lessons drawn from other pandemic responses that included extended school closures have shown that girls are less likely to return to school and are at greater risk of falling behind1. As many governments move to at-home learning modalities, many refugees are disadvantaged as they experience uneven access to distance education and online learning opportunities and hardware, and do not have access to support services such as language classes.
The UN Secretary-General has launched a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on children. The brief lays out the ways in which the virus will impact children. Whilst they appear largely to be spared the worst symptoms of the disease, they may well be among the biggest victims of the crisis in the long run because their education, nutrition, safety and health will be significantly undermined by the socioeconomic impact and by unintended consequences of the pandemic response. The harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. They are expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighbourhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations. This policy brief provides a deeper analysis of these effects. It identifies also a series of immediate and sustained actions for the attention of governments and policymakers.
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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