Over 600 million children affected by pandemic-induced school closures

Geneva, Jul 27 (EFE).- More than 600 million children across the world are missing classes due to school closures induced by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF warned on Tuesday.

The UN body predicted that this situation would have long-term negative consequences on child development in many countries for years.

“Education, safety, friends and food have been replaced by anxiety, violence, and teenage pregnancy,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said during a press conference in Geneva.

Elder added that reopening schools should not be tied to the vaccination of all teachers and students, given the shortage of coronavirus vaccine jabs in poorer countries.

“While we recognize that leaders around the world are frequently being forced to grapple with the impossible choice between locking down their communities or helping to facilitate the mass spread of a dangerous disease, schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen,” he continued.

In almost half the countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been shut for more than 200 days, while schools in 18 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean remain either closed or partially closed since the outbreak of the pandemic 19 months ago.

Africa, however, is the most impacted region.

Some 32 million children have been missing out on classes amid the pandemic because schools are shut or because they did not come back to class after schools reopened.

In addition, 37 million others were already out of school before the pandemic, according to Elder.

“Take Uganda: between March last year and this June, there was a more than 20 percent increase in pregnancy among 10-24-year-olds (who were seeking antenatal care),” he continued, referring to the most serious consequences of the pandemic on girls and adolescents.

Remote learning is not an option for at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren, who lack the necessary technological equipment that allow them to attend classes from home.

UNICEF stressed that the fastest way for children to return to school is to put the pandemic under control, so it has called for $659 million to help countries lacking vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tools. EFE


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