Children have the risk of being affected by pandemics like COVID-19, luckily they have been spared largely from the direct effect of COVID-19 but it surely has affected their well-being. With schools being shut for many days, they have to learn from home, which is also stressful in some cases, whereas some children don't get the facility of learning from home due to lack of access to technology. The mental health of a child is vulnerable in a global crisis like this, with gardens closed and least going out, they are exposed to indoors a lot and if there is no positive environment inside the house, it will have an impact on them. Also traveling is prohibited so the kids have to meet their friends, grandparents, and relatives virtually and who knows this lifestyle might continue for quite a long time.
GLOBAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT: As per UN estimate, Coronavirus pandemic may push 86m more children into household poverty by 2020-end. Rising malnutrition is expected as 368.5 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition must now look to other sources. The risks to child mental health and well being are also considerable. Releasing the policy brief, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said while the poorest and most vulnerable members of society are being hard hit by the pandemic, children living in slums, on streets, refugees, displacement camps, with disabilities, etc. are even worse hit.
THE CHILD-HEALTH IN INDIA: A report of 2015–16 suggests that 38% of children under five are stunted, 28% are wasted and around 36% under five are underweight. Around 59% of children are also anemic with the immune system and increase morbidity due to infectious diseases. Only 62% of children aged 12 to 23 months receive all basic vaccinations and only 10% of children aged 6–23 months receive a minimum acceptable diet in India, rendering them more vulnerable. In the Global Hunger Index, India was in the 102nd position out of 117 countries in 2019. The Index accounts for undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality. One of the lowest per capita healthcare fiscal allocation in the world with a shortage of doctors vis a vis pediatricians are the fundamental challenges.
THE SILVER LINING: Overall mortality is less than 5%-it is less deadly than smallpox, polio, etc. The ACE2 protein manufactured by Corona is not fully matured/functional and/or sensitive in children. Further, children often experience respiratory infections, their bodies produce more antibodies to fend off the virus attacks. About 90% of child-patients in China were asymptomatic or had mild to moderate symptoms. Anyhow, as immunity has a direct nexus with nutrition, the impact of COVID-19 on poor children low on nutrition is yet to be fully understood. Hopefully, it will spare the children without a significant toll.
THE RURAL INDIA: With WhatsApp, Facebook, and other digital platforms in vogue, serving well in permeating the COVID-19 information even in the remotest part of India, the Rural folks are with face-covers, invariably. States machinery, during the lockdown, has tremendously sensitized the people, hence the information is not an issue but the sensitivity which is marred by even higher priority of survival — meeting two ends meet — among the rural poor. There is no gainsaying the fact that COVID-19 has immensely impacted the economy and the vast informal sector engaging the poor. The critical social distancing is unimaginable in slums where one shanty shelters even up to 10 people including kids. Vast asymptomatics remain untested, so the full picture is still at large. With less than 10% of India on Arogya-Setu and lack of honest self-reporting attenuate its utility. Anyhow, the way Corona’s positive graph is shooting exponentially, the coming months may severely cripple our healthcare system and not spare our warriors — Doctors.
INTERVENTIONS FOR CHILD CARE: How the pandemic will unfold and impact the rural poor and children, it’s difficult to predict.
Anyhow, as robust immunity is the only cure, the States should enhance investment in maternal and neonatal care. It should keep on securing food supply chains for the rural poor and better club it with nutrition management for children with it. Higher investments in younger India will result in a stronger India.
There may be direct cash transfers to low- income families and minimization of disruptions to social and healthcare services for children.
Education through sloganeering on the walls in villages on hygiene, social distancing may be promoted.
A couple of years may be necessary for economic recuperation, however, States should set up long term goals for better health care, education, proper nutrition, adequate housing, etc. for bringing more social equity. Each soul, be she an adult or a kid of civil society, should be ensured required calories, nutrition, health care, and shelter, etc. for ensuring physical and psychological well being.
Contributed By- Siddhart Jangid, Content Writer @ Mitti Ke Rang
At Mitti Ke Rang, we started with a COVID-19 community support fundraising, as an emergency response to provide a safety net to families. This will help them survive in the lockdown period. We aim to directly support these families by providing a minimum wage, through transferring the same into their accounts or partner with local NGO, Organisation, Fellow or a Volunteer, and support them with groceries.
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