Orphanhood and caregiver deaths are a hidden effect of the Covid-19 pandemic

20 September 2021

More than 860,000 children in 21 countries had been orphaned or lost a custodial grandparent as a result of Covid-19 by the end of April 2021.

A study in The Lancet aimed to highlight the overlooked consequences of the pandemic on children. It cited evidence that children who lose primary caregivers face higher risks of mental health problems, physical, emotional and sexual violence, family poverty and institutionalisation. Researchers studied Covid-associated deaths of primary or secondary caregivers for children younger than 18 years from 1 March 2020 to 30 April 2021. Rates of children losing primary or secondary caregivers were highest in Peru, South Africa and Mexico. The data suggests that 1.1 million children across the globe have had their lives permanently changed by the Covid-associated deaths of their mothers, fathers or custodial grandparents.

It concluded that accelerating equitable vaccine delivery was the key to prevention, with psychosocial and economic support needed to help families.

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