By Charly Agwam, Bauchi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned in a new report of significant and growing consequences for children as the COVID-19 pandemic moves into a second year, ahead of World Children’s Day on November 20. , Preventing a Lost Generation of COVID is UNICEF’s first report to comprehensively delineate the dire and escalating consequences for children as the pandemic drags on.
In a press release made available to journalists today in Bauchi, UNICEF, commemorating World Children’s Day, warned of a “lost generation” as COVID-19 threatens to cause irreversible damage to education , nutrition and well-being of children.
The international organization expressed concern that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are increasing and the long-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people may alter the lifetime.
“Since the pandemic began, there has been a false belief that children are not affected by COVID-19,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “Nothing could be further from the truth, even in Nigeria. While children are less likely to have severe symptoms of illness, they can become infected, and by far the biggest impact is disruptions to key services and rising poverty rates, which are having a major impact on education, the health, nutrition and well-being of Nigerian children. -being. The future of an entire generation is at stake, globally and in Nigeria. “
The new UNICEF report finds that, as of November 3, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, children and adolescents under the age of 20 accounted for 1 in 9 of COVID-19 infections, or 11% of the 25.7 million reported infections. for these countries. In Nigeria, children of the same age group accounted for 1 in 10 infections or 11.3 percent of all infections.
The report argued that while children can transmit the virus to each other and to older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them, notes the report. Schools are not the main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to contract the virus outside of the school setting.
“World Children’s Day is an important day to commemorate, but also to renew our commitment to address the rights and needs of children in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins. “We ask the government, partners and the private sector to listen to children and young people about Nigeria who want to see for themselves and their future and to prioritize their needs. As we look to a post-COVID-19 world, children must come first. “
In offering solutions to the problem, UNICEF suggested that governments and other stakeholders should ensure that all children learn, including by closing the digital divide, ensuring access to nutrition and health services, and making vaccines affordable and available. For all children, support and protect mental health. of children and young people, and end abuse, gender-based violence and neglect in childhood.
Other suggestions include: increasing access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene and addressing environmental degradation and climate change, reversing the rise in child poverty and ensuring an inclusive recovery for all, and redoubling efforts to protect and support children. children and their families living in conflict situations. , disaster and displacement.