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Beyond Masks

Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents
Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents

 

Publication series:
Innocenti Research Report

No. of pages: 16

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(PDF, 2.61 MB)

Abstract

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.

Available in:
English

MORE IN THIS SERIES: Innocenti Research Report

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There is a learning crisis. Fifty-three per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries are in ‘learning poverty’, i.e. they cannot read and understand a simple text by the end of primary school age. In sub- Saharan Africa, the learning poverty rate is 87 per cent overall, and ranges from 40 per cent to as high as 99 per cent in the 21 countries with available data. Teachers attending lessons and spending quality time on task is a critical prerequisite to learning. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, teacher absenteeism ranges from 15 to 45 per cent. Teacher absenteeism and reduced time on task wastes valuable financial resources, short-changes students and is one of the most cumbersome obstacles on the path toward the education Sustainable Development Goal and to the related vision of the new UNICEF education strategy: Every Child Learns. Whilst the stark numbers are available to study, and despite teacher absenteeism being a foremost challenge for education systems in Africa, the evidence base on how policies and practices can influence teacher attendance remains scant. Time to Teach (TTT) is a research initiative that looks at primary school teacher attendance in eight countries and territories in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region: the Comoros; Kenya; Rwanda, Puntland, State of Somalia; South Sudan; the United Republic of Tanzania, mainland; the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar; and Uganda. Its primary objective is to identify factors affecting the various forms of teacher attendance, which include being at school, being punctual, being in the classroom, and teaching when in the classroom, and use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies.