At least 5.2 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19, putting them at risk of poverty, exploitation and abuse and highlighting the lasting scars of the pandemic, a study shows.
More than 1.2 million children under nine years of age were orphaned between March 2020 and October last year, along with 2.1 million kids between 10 and 17, according to a new modeling study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.
The estimates on orphaned children, however, are probably higher as the death toll from Covid-19 has been vastly underestimated, especially in Africa where cases could be 10 times higher than official figures, said Juliette Unwin, an author of the study. A mathematical model estimates the global toll was 6.7 million in January.
This grim statistics highlight the number of children at risk of sexual abuse, trafficking, exploitation and dropping out of school, endangering decades of progress, especially in developing countries. Still more families are being shattered as the global death toll rises, piling pressure on government to provide safety nets.
Governments should take measures to support orphaned children as part of their Covid response, wrote Susan Hillis, another of the study’s authors.
The study also found that three out of four children globally who experienced the death of a parent during the pandemic lost their fathers.
It took 10 years for 5 million children to be orphaned by HIV/AIDS, whereas the same number of children have been orphaned by Covid-19 in just two years, according to the study.