It can't be denied that the future of our country depends on the children of today. But the novel coronavirus has endangered the life of more than 880000 children in South Asia according to UNICEF.
The novel coronavirushas put the lives of children in South Asia in turmoil and it will keep on doing so in the future.A recent UNICEF report referred to a study which was conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,which hadwarned that as many as 8,81,000 children aged between five and under can die in the next 12 months. The countries that are most probable to be hit by this are India and Pakistan due to theirhigh population.
According to the UNICEF report,the reason behind these deaths would be poverty due to Covid-19 which has pushed many families into poverty because of its impact on the economic stability of the country. The pandemic is affecting the children very badly both mentally and physically.The lockdown and other factors are also playing a key role in damaging children in numerous ways. The pandemic shall have an along with term effect upon the children i.e. an altogether different aspect of Covid-19. The report states that due to the lockdown many people have lost their jobs and are facing a financial crisis, as a result of which they are not able to provide nutritious meals to their children.
The attention of government is towards exterminating Covid-19, as a result, there is a lack of attention on the children from the poor and marginalized communities who are no longer getting the treatment they need for other illnesses. The research shows that all the health workers and other facilities have shifted their focus from essential maternal, new-born, and child health services to Covid-19. The diverted attention of states all over the Asian continent may result in harming pregnant mothers and their unborn children. The report specifically states thatthe majority of maternal deaths will be seen in India and Pakistan due to overpopulation density and poor health care systems. The neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Afghanistan may also get affected.
Before the arrival of the COVID-19, nearly 7.7 million children under the age of five were suffering from severe diseases and more than 56 million were malnourished. In India, the government organized the mid-day meal scheme, and many children used to depend upon that scheme and now they are no longer benefiting from these government schemes. These meals were the only meals they received in a day. The pandemic has affected the education of 247 million children according to the report. However, the children are getting education via digital platforms but it has its own vulnerabilities.
Amid everything there was an increase in the number of calls received by the state-run child protection helpline, an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the report said. UNICEF has asked governments across South Asia to continue involvements to provide life-saving vaccinations in response to outbreaks of illnesses like measles, and cholera. It also urged states to protect children against violence by keeping phone helplines open and referral networks functioning.
SOLUTIONS GIVEN BY UNICEF TO SAFEGUARD CHILDREN:
- The state should provide community health workers and other social workers with PPE kitsto ensure their safety.
- The state should come up with low-tech home learning solutions to impart education, specifically for groups like girls, children living in remote areas and urban slums, and children with disabilities.
- Keep the toilets and hygiene services in schools and health care facilities clean and fulfilthe need for water supply.
- The government should work with religious leaders and other partners to put an end to the myths and hate-speech by people that the pandemic has given rise to.
STEPS THAT CAN BE TAKEN BY VARIOUS ORGANS OF GOVERNMENT
- The courts should issue guidelines to safeguard the health of the children.
- As we all know that COVID-19 is affecting the children mentally, the government should launch programs that will help children to cope up with stress and anxiety caused due to lockdown.
- The government should educate the parents on how to help their children deal with anxiety.
- The government should launch programs to educate children via a digital platform.The programs should be of such nature that children in remote areas can access them with low internet connectivity.
- The government should pay special attention to children who are below the poverty line as they will be the ones who will be adversely affected by the epidemic.
- The government should face this problem just like how the government was successful in eradicating polio from India.
- In time the cancellation of the 10th and 12th standard examination will prove to be an important step taken by the government to fight Corona, as near the time when the exams were scheduled to be held was the time when corona will be on its peak.
- The government should take measures to safeguard basic educational facilities for the children.
The government should understand that if suitable measures are not taken in time it may result in proving the report of UNICEF true. We can't deny that the future of our country rests in the hands of today's children as they are the real king for whom the government works hard and spends resources for their development. The government must understand if the students will miss the exams of today it shall allow them to live and change the future. The government should take suitable measures to safeguard the present and future of our children because they are the hope of the future.
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 Lives Upended: How COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian Children