United Nations, Dec 8 (EFE).- Covid-19 has caused the biggest global crisis for children in the 75-year history of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the organization said on Wednesday, calling for action to prevent decades of progress from being undone.
“While the number of children who are hungry, out of school, abused, living in poverty or forced into marriage is going up, the number of children with access to health care, vaccines, sufficient food and essential services is going down,” Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
Fore added that while “UNICEF has helped to shape healthier and safer environments for children across the globe, with great results for millions,” these achievements “are now at risk.”
“The Covid pandemic has been the biggest threat to progress for children in our 75-year history,” she stressed.
The report, released on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the agency’s founding on Dec. 11, states that an additional 100 million children are living in multidimensional poverty, which measures education, health and living standards, due to the pandemic.
This is 10 percent more than in 2019, which means that it will take seven to eight years “in a best-case scenario” to go back to the child poverty levels that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Unicef.
The report adds there are now some 60 million more children living in poor households, while over 23 million children had not received essential vaccines in 2020, 4 million more than before the pandemic.
Unicef also touches upon the consequences of school closures due to lockdowns, and warns of the danger of up to 10 million additional child marriages occurring before the end of the decade due to the crisis.
It also points to a global increase in child labor by 8.4 million in the last four years to 160 million, while warning that another 9 million minors are at risk of being pushed into child labor before 2023 due to the increase in poverty.
Beyond the pandemic, children around the world are exposed to other threats such as war and global warming, Unicef said.
While globally, 426 million children – almost one in five – live in conflict zones, around 1 billion children – almost half of all children on the planet – live in countries that are at an “extremely high-risk” of suffering the consequences of climate change, Unicef said.
“In an era of a global pandemic, growing conflicts, and worsening climate change, never has a child-first approach been more critical than today,” Fore emphasized.
Unicef proposed investment in social protection and human capital as well as spending on inclusive, resilient recovery.
The body called for ending the pandemic and reversing “the alarming rollback” in child nutrition and health.
It also urged working to ensure quality education, protection and mental health for children.
“We must keep children first in line for investment and last in line for cuts. The promise of our future is set in the priorities we make in our present,” Fore concluded. EFE.