School closures and the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are taking the biggest toll on the world’s most marginalized children.

The organization Save the Children released the largest global COVID-19 survey of its kind as part of the ‘Protect a Generation’ report on Wednesday, Sept. 9. This revealed that the poorest children have been most at risk during the crisis and have disproportionately lost access to education, health care and food.

According to Global Citizen, an international non-profit that aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, there is cause for concern as the children in crisis are some of the world’s most vulnerable.

In its own report summarizing the Save the Children study, it points out that these youngsters already lack access to the tools and resources they need to escape poverty and reach their full potential.

In its survey, Save the Children asked 25,000 children and adults how the pandemic is affecting their lives and highlighted the ways the crisis has widened gender and wealth inequalities. The organization now wants to see more response efforts that prioritize children’s needs.

“To protect an entire generation of children from losing out on a healthy and stable future, the world needs to urgently step up with debt relief for low-income countries and fragile states so they can invest in the lives of their children,” said Save the Children President and CEO Janti Soeripto. “The needs of children and their opinions need to be at the center of any plans to build back what the world has lost over the past months, to ensure that they will not pay the heaviest price.”

Save the Children estimates that 9.7 million children will not be going back to school this year and the new survey suggests many of the children missing out are girls living in poverty.

Less than one percent of the children from poorer households who participated in the survey had access to remote learning, and of those who didn’t classify themselves as poor, only 19 percent had access.

Of the girls surveyed, 63 percent reported having more responsibilities compared to 43 percent of boys. The girls reported that chores got in the way of learning at over double the rate of boys — 23 percent compared to 10 percent. Caring for siblings fell on 52 percent of the girls surveyed compared to 42 percent of boys.

School closures have also threatened child safety. Since schools shut down, violence at home doubled and reached 17 percent compared to eight percent before. Violence increased almost three times more in children’s homes where parents lost income.

Most children surveyed now face new challenges to education: two-thirds of children reported that they had no contact with teachers during lockdowns.

In East and Southern Africa, for example, eight out of 10 children reported that they barely learned or didn’t learn at all during the pandemic.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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