The United Nations Children’s Fund has said that the COVID-19 pandemic is posing greater threats to the health and lifestyle of children, with at least 11 per cent of patients in Nigeria aged 1 to 9 nine years old.
A UNICEF report on Friday, titled, “Averting a lost COVID generation”, said children are becoming more vulnerable to the virus, and more attention needed to be focused on providing care and assistance to this section of the society.
SaharaReporters learnt that the report was released just ahead of World Children’s Day on Friday, and it “comprehensively outlines the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic drags on.”
The report said, “It shows that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.
“As of November 3, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for 1 in 9 of COVID-19 infections, or 11 per cent of the 25.7 million infections reported by these countries. In Nigeria, children in the same age group accounted for 1 in 10 infections or 11.3 per cent of total infections.
“While children can transmit the virus to each other and older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with necessary safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them. Schools are not a primary driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings.
“COVID-related disruptions to critical health and social services for children pose the most serious threat to children.”
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, noted that to respond to this crisis, the organisation called on the governments and partners to “ensure that children learn, including by closing the digital divide. Two, guarantee access to nutrition and health services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child.
“Support and protect the mental health of children and young people and bring an end to abuse, gender-based violence and neglect in childhood; increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.”
He added, “Since the pandemic started, there has been a false belief that children are not affected by COVID-19. Nothing can be further from the truth, including in Nigeria. While children are less likely to have severe symptoms of illness, they can be infected.
“The biggest impact by far is the disruptions to key services and increasing poverty rates, which both have a huge impact on Nigerian children’s education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk – globally and in Nigeria.”