search advanced search
UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
search menu
EventEvent

COVID-19 & Child Health

What the Experts Say: Coronavirus & Children
(Past event)

Event type: Webinar

events1 October 2020time15:00 - 16:00 CET

 

On Thursday 1 October at 15:00 CET | 09:00 EST, UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti presented its seventh Leading Minds Online webinar ‘What the Experts Say - Coronavirus and Children' on Child Health.

As COVID-19 has been kinder to children, it’s also pushed children into the shadows – they’re barred from play, barred from school and more critically barred from health clinics with routine health services grinding to a halt. Adolescents too have seemed invisible even invincible.

What do we know about the virology of children and young people – why do children seem to have special immunity? Usually, children are the first to get any vaccine. Will that happen with a COVID vaccine? What about those who will refuse to vaccinate their children? And what’s been happening to children’s health and immunization in general while the pandemic rages? Because every child deserves answers, we ask the experts the big, burning questions about child health.

WHEN: Thursday 1 OCTOBER 15:00 CEST | 9:00 EST



Confirmed panelists:

 

  

Experts

Heidi Larson
Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science, LSHTM
Luwei Pearson
Associate Director and Chief of Health Programme, UNICEF NYHQ
Dr. David Nabarro
Special Envoy of WHO Director General on COVID19
Dr. Raji Tajudeen
Head, Division of Public Health Institutes and Research, Africa CDC
David Anthony
Moderator
Sarah Crowe
Moderator

Related Content

A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response
Publication

A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response

This rapid review seeks to inform initial and long-term public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by assessing evidence on past economic policy and social protection responses to health and economic crises and their effects on children and families. The review focuses on virus outbreaks/emergencies, economic crises and natural disasters which, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, were rapid in onset, had wide-ranging geographical reach, and resulted in disruption of social services and economic sectors without affecting governance systems. Lessons are also drawn from the HIV/AIDS pandemic due to its impact on adult mortality rates and surviving children.
Does COVID-19 Affect the Health of Children and Young People More Than We Thought? The case for disaggregated data to inform action
Publication

Does COVID-19 Affect the Health of Children and Young People More Than We Thought? The case for disaggregated data to inform action

How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?
Blog Post

How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?

This blog explores how Sport for Development (S4D) organisations have responded and adapted their programming to support children during the COVID-19 crisis. S4D organisations use sport as a tool to catalyse positive change in the lives of children, youth and the communities they live in. Interviews with S4D organizations, conducted as part of the ongoing research commissioned by the Barça Foundation and UNICEF partnership, revealed that organizations are innovating to adapt to the current crisis through three key interconnected practices: Continuing to support children through remote sessions, with coaches providing guidance for physical activity along with content to accomplish a variety of social goals.Providing critical and accurate health and COVID-19 information through coaches, who are in many cases trusted individuals in communities.Supporting their staff in helping other programmes, such as feeding programmes, while sports activities are closed.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vdm4eQlonE&t=43s[/embed] What is Sport for Development?Sport and physical activity are fun, effective and engaging means to improve many areas of children’s wellbeing including physical and mental health, empowerment, learning and life skills that are essential for success in school, life and work. For instance, one review found positive associations between physical activity and academic performance in 79% of the studies it assessed. The Kazan Action plan highlights the role sport can play in improving children’s lives, and outlines the commitment of multiple governments to make sport part of the solution to achieving the SDGs. S4D organisations come in various forms – from those that build social programmes around sport, to those that include sport as one of many approaches to achieving their goals. Approximately 1 in every 500 children worldwide takes part in a S4D initiative and almost every country hosts some S4D programmes (see map). How are organisations responding?S4D organizations create safe spaces where children can feel protected from violent and difficult contexts and where they are free to express themselves, away from social norms and expectations that communities can have for boys and girls. These activities take place in schools, community centres, and outdoor spaces. Social distancing measures have meant that organizations have had to stop their regular programming taking away these safe physical spaces and adapt both delivery modalities and content to respond to the crisis. Continuing to support children through remote sessionsMany S4D organizations are going remote through online, but also through broadcast media. The Barça Foundation, in Spain, has adapted its sessions for marginalised youth to take place online: coaches lead children through physical exercises remotely replacing their usual football match (See Figure 2), and moderate group discussions, before and after the exercise on life skills and values. This provides socio-emotional support through play and continues healthy routines which can be critical for mental health during uncertain times. The Barça Foundation is working on alternative ways to deliver these sessions so they are available to participants without access to internet, acknowledging that access to technology is not a given for many children around the world as explored in a recent research brief on remote learning. [caption id="attachment_2569" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Figure 2[/caption] COVID Focus: Providing critical and accurate health and COVID-19 informationAs part of their response, many S4D organisations, are adapting their content and developing innovative ways to help spread the word about good practices during COVID-19. Grassroot Soccer (GRS), who uses football as part of a curriculum on sexual and reproductive health, has developed an open-source COVID-19 curriculum that debunks myths around COVID-19 and promotes healthy behaviors. Sessions of this curriculum can be adapted to be implemented in person, respecting social distancing, or remotely and include physical activity (e.g. stretch, dance, game) components in place of the usual football (See Figure 3). This curriculum has been released withtips for coaches facilitators and caregivers, translated into 4 languages and is being used by several organisations in Africa. Various other open-source activities and curricula can be found here. [caption id="attachment_2570" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Figure 3[/caption] Organizations are also turning themselves into reference points for health information by sharing correct and updated health advice with communities. For example, TackleAfrica has been sending health content to its coaches in 12 countries via text message. CoolPlay and YouthWave are using WhatsApp and radio to stay in touch with programme participants, provide psychosocial support and healthy behavior tips. As trusted members of many marginalized communities, coaches and S4D organizations can have a critical role in providing health updates and fighting misinformation. Supporting their staff in helping other programmesOrganisations have been helping in other ways, CoolPlay gave their staff’s time to support feeding programmes and the Barça Foundation provided in kind support to the families of the beneficiaries. Laureus Sport’s Informal Sharing Community meetings. This fits with the actions that sport organisations more broadly have taken. Football clubs in Europe have launched support drives to help others in need in the community, offered places for medical staff to stay, donated money to health services, and started helplines. In Spain, FC Barcelona has ceded the title rights to Camp Nou for the 2020-2021 season to the Barça Foundation to raise money for research in the fight against  COVID-19. As shown in the Getting into the Game report, sports can have an outsized impact on a child’s wellbeing, from children’s health, to life skills like leadership and teamwork, to learning outcomes. S4D organizations are working hard to adapt to the current reality, and are making important contributions to the communities they operate in. Post COVID-19, the global community should make sure that the commitment made to using sport to improve the lives of children, remains integrated into plans to build healthier, safer, and more inclusive societies.   Are you part of an S4D organization? How has COVID-19 affected you and how have you responded? Please email us at cpasquini@unicef.org and tell us more about it.
COVID-19 may pose greater risk to children than originally thought
Blog Post

COVID-19 may pose greater risk to children than originally thought

It is commonly accepted, at least for now, that children and adolescents (0-19 years) have been largely spared the direct epidemiological effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their own health and survival. This narrative is based predominantly on early data from the first affected countries of the virus, notably from China (Wuhan Province) and Italy in early 2020, and also other high-income countries including the United States and some European nations. This narrative has conditioned subsequent screening and testing of COVID-19 cases in children and adolescents, which have been notably lower than for other age cohorts. But demographic dynamics differs widely among countries, and assumptions and narrative made on evidence taken from ageing societies and mainly from high income countries may not hold for more youthful and growing populations (Figure 1). For this reason, we began to investigate the burden of COVID-19 cases for children and adolescents globally. And what we have found so far, despite major data limitations, suggest that children worldwide may be more affected by COVID-19 than the dominant narrative so far suggests. The narrative [that children have been spared] is based predominantly on early data from the first affected countries of the virus, notably China and Italy and other high-income countries including the United States and some European nations.Italy source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1103023/coronavirus-cases-distribution-by-age-group-italy/ Kenya source: https://www.health.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Kenya-SITREP-090-15-Jun-2020.pdfThe dataset we have compiled from websites of 42 countries with available disaggregated data shows that the average of COVID-19 reported cases among children and adolescents under 20 years as a percentage of total cases is 8.1 per cent. There is an incredibly broad spread among the proportions, ranging from Paraguay, where under-20s account for about 23 per cent of the national COVID case load on 14 June 2020, to Spain, where they represented just 0.82 per cent by 4 June 2020. (Figure 2). A pattern of the child and adolescent burden of reported COVID-19 cases emerges when countries are aggregated along income levels and geographic locations. Using the World Bank income categorization, the share of COVID-19 cases among under-20s in the total reported burden is around 10 per cent for low- and middle-income countries (LMICS) including China compared to 7 per cent for high-income countries (Figure 1). When China is excluded, the share of COVID-19 cases among under-20s in the total national burden is around 11 percent. What is perhaps more disturbing, however, is that for some of the high-burden child and adolescent mortality countries – including Brazil, India and Nigeria – the proportion of cases among under 20s to the total national COVID-19 cases is in double digits. One reason that children may be neglected as sufferers from COVID-19 derives from the way the virus affects them. Children confirmed with COVID-19 generally have fewer symptoms than adults, including fever and cough, and much less dyspnoea (shortness of breath) than adults. Consistent with less severe disease, laboratory findings in children with COVID-19 are less abnormal than in adults, and they are less likely to require ICU or significant treatments. However, the emerging multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MISS or MIS-C) in children reported in Western countries is of great concern and calls for increased vigilance. Early detection is key to prevent unintended consequences for children. Much of the difficulty of drawing definitive conclusions from the available data is related to the fact that there is just too little of child specific data. From our search of diverse sources, we were only able to draw on data by age from 42 countries out of the 188 countries and territories that have confirmed cases of COVID-19, which represents about 20 per cent of these countries. It is even harder to obtain disaggregated data to evaluate proportional representation by age among children and adolescents with COVID-19. This omission requires rapid rectification if the full direct effects of the virus on children and adolescents – and indeed other stratifiers such as gender and race/ethnicity -- are to be better understood. While understanding the additional burden the accurate age reporting may place on already overstretched health systems, particularly in countries with weak health system capacity, experience from some low-and-middle-income countries proved that it is possible for much more age disaggregated data to be made available in a readily accessible format. This will not only benefit children and adolescents but the wider understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on all age cohorts. The same argument can and is being made for disaggregation by sex. A medical worker applies a flu vaccine to a girl in Asuncion, Paraguay amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Health authorities in Paraguay are encouraging people over 60 and children to be vaccinated against the flu.It is imperative to have standardized age data to enable a comprehensive and timely understanding of the patterns of vulnerability across ages, geography, co-morbidities and vulnerabilities, thus enabling better programme strategies and policy adoption that are context specific. At the end of the day, the pandemic is about people in different parts of the world, so invoking the SDG principle of leaving no one behind, and universal health coverage, we need to pay attention to everyone including children and adolescents, who are often the silent victims. Children are without a voice or platform and are among the most vulnerable. It is the responsibility of all governments and parties to make sure they are not left behind in this epidemic due to lack of data, research and testing. The pandemic has currently appeared to hit men and the elderly hardest, particularly in high income countries. But data emerging from the US and elsewhere points alarmingly to COVID-19 disease becoming an equity issue, with certain ethnicities and income groups much more likely to die from it than othersIn addition, a further call by the authors is for the continuous monitoring of age- and sex-disaggregated data for COVID-19 by governments and major international agencies. The pandemic has currently appeared to hit men and the elderly hardest, particularly in high income countries. But data emerging from the US and elsewhere points alarmingly to COVID-19 disease becoming an equity issue, with certain ethnicities and income groups much more likely to die from it than others, even when controlling for pre-existing health conditions, age, and other socio-demographic factors. Like polio before it, unless we continue to monitor its socio-demographic spread, COVID-19 may start out being a disease that first affects more affluent communities and countries but could end up lasting longest and deepest among the world’s poorest countries and communities. In the HIV crisis, age-disaggregated data appeared long after the aggregate numbers or even the sex-disaggregated, leaving child prevention, detection and treatment lagging well behind that of adults. Until it did, children were assumed to be affected largely by its secondary effects on their parents, caregivers and family members. The disaggregated figures showed that children were also primary victims of the crisis, as well as secondary ones, but by the time this happened, it was too late to stop this momentum. We must not make the same mistakes with the COVID-19 crisis. See a complete list of country level COVID-19 data sources.   Priscilla Idele is Deputy Director of UNICEF Innocenti. David Anthony is Chief of Strategic Planning  and Convening at UNICEF Innocenti. Kaku Attah Damoah, is a Research Consultant at UNICEF Innocenti working on poverty reduction. Danzhen You is Sr. Advisor, Statistics and Monitoring at UNICEF.