Coronavirus might push nearly 120 million children into poverty in South Asia

240 million out of 600 million children already living in poverty says UN report

An estimated 120 million children living in South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh could slip into poverty within the next six months due to the COVID-19 crisis, taking the total number of such kids in the region to 360 million, according to a new UNICEF report.
The report -- Lives Upended - How COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian Children -- covers eight South Asian countries namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
It says that an estimated 240 million children already live in "multi-dimensional" poverty -- including factors such as poor health, lack of education, poor sanitation and poor quality of work in these countries. An additional 120 million children could be pushed into poverty due to the COVID crisis, taking the total number to 360 million, it says.Cases across the densely populated region — home to almost a quarter of the world’s population — have risen in recent weeks even as the region lifts its lockdown to revive economies badly shattered by the virus.
“While they may be less susceptible to the virus itself, children are being profoundly affected by the fallout, including the economic and social consequences of the lockdown,” the report by the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.

The reports also flags the negative impact of the COVID-related disruption to vaccination, nutrition and other vital health services.
Quoting research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, it said, "In the worst-case scenario, South Asia could see the additional deaths of as many as 881,000 children aged 5 or under and that of 36,000 mothers over the next twelve months. The bulk of these deaths would occur in India and Pakistan, although Bangladesh and Afghanistan could also see significant levels of additional mortality."
In a worst-case scenario, the virus could push another 120 million into poverty and food insecurity within six months, it warned.
“Without urgent action now, Covid-19 could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation,” UNICEF’s South Asia regional director Jean Gough said in a statement.

In Bangladesh, UNICEF said it found that some of the poorest families could not afford three meals a day, while in Sri Lanka its survey showed that 30 per cent of families had cut their food intake.
With schools shut, poorer children have struggled to keep up with their education, particularly those in rural households without internet access — or even electricity.
“There are concerns that some disadvantaged students may join the nearly 32 million children who were already out of school before Covid-19 struck,” the report added.
Other major concerns include the risks of domestic violence, depression and other mental health issues with youths spending more time at home.
                                                                                 Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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