UNICEF: Poverty, Malnutrition and Hunger Threaten to Push 120 Million Children Into Poverty Amid Pandemic

Poverty, reverse migration and malnutrition could push 120 million children into poverty in South Asia.

Representative Image |Photo by Amaresh N Samanta

Children around the world are amongst the worst hit sections of the population amid the pandemic and their situation is only expected to worsen looking at the contemporary global trends. It has been estimated that over 120 million children living in South Asian countries such as India could slip into the dens of extreme poverty in the next six months due to the COVID-19 crisis. The disastrous consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy will quite clearly have a very negative impact on the poverty and malnutrition standards across the world, and children will be its worst victims.

 It is believed that if things continue as they are today, the total number of such children could rise to 36 million in the South Asian region alone. These striking observation have been made public in a report recently published by the UNICEF.

The report has been entitled Lives Upended- How COVID-19 threatens the futures of 600 million South Asian Children’ and it covers eight major countries of the South Asian region such as India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. 

The report makes a striking revelation and tells us that it is estimated that more than 240 million children already find themselves amid what can be called ‘multi-dimensional poverty’, that includes things like poor health, lack of educational facilities, lack of sanitation facilities and availability of poor employment opportunities across these countries. 

The coronavirus has posed an unprecedented challenged before the world by amplifying the levels of poverty and it is likely that 12o million more children could be pushed into poverty due to the ongoing crisis, taking the total number to 360 million. 

The report also highlights and underlines the negative impact the COVID-19 related disruption caused to regular and vital health services across the world and more particularly in this region. 

The report also quoted research done by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School or Public Health and 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.”

With schools being turned into quarantine facilities and becoming prone to infection, it will remain a major challenge in these countries to disinfect them before children return. 

Children dropping out is also a concern as families are pushed into poverty further and economic activities are hampered. 

Reverse migration is a big challenge as we saw in the migrant crisis in India demanding the urgent attention of policy makers. 

In a country like India, 270 million children have been impacted by school class and many are expected to drop out due to the fallout of the economic lockdown. With new challenges imposed due to the lockdown, there is a fear that the advancement and progress made in the last decade could be lost.