THE HILL | The flood of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s brutal invasion reminds us that the pain of war often falls most heavily on those with the least ability to cope, especially children.
The same is true of our battle with COVID-19, which has now left over 7 million children worldwide suffering from the loss of a loving parent or grandparent caregiver. Urgent action is needed to protect these children from the many threats they face. The Biden-Harris administration can lead by using the U.S.-hosted Global COVID-19 Summit this spring to rally the world to care for the hidden victims of the pandemic.
COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver loss are increasing at unparalleled speed, with one new child affected every six seconds. It took the HIV-AIDS pandemic 10 years for 5 million children to become orphaned; it’s taken COVID-19 just two years to top that tragedy.
While equitable vaccine coverage can slow the rates of caregiver deaths, the numbers of children affected by COVID-19 orphanhood will continue to rise, especially in Africa where less than 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The lack of strong social safety nets exposes these children to extreme threats, including abuse, violence, high-risk sexual behavior, and institutionalization. These risks increase when breadwinners die — a sobering fact given that 75 percent of COVID-19 orphanhood involves paternal death.
Most children losing a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19 have a living relative who, with adequate support, could care for them. But the time to act is now. Early intervention with educational, economic, and parenting support is needed to ensure that each affected child benefits from the healing hands of a safe and nurturing family — and does not end up in institutional care.
Read the full article here: https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/600129-the-global-crisis-of-covid-orphanhood/