Edited by Shoba Suri
Although children are not the face of this pandemic, they are still at risk due to the socio-economic fallout from the COVID crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lifelong impact on children through indirect effects, including poor diet and impact on mental health due to social isolation, closure of schools and stress on healthcare facilities.
COVID-19 has had a diverse impact on nutrition with disrupted food supply chains and consequential gaps in health and nutrition services. But these adverse effects are not distributed equally; they are most damaging for disadvantaged and poorer communities. The pandemic has pushed 150 million additional children into multidimensional poverty—without access to education, healthcare, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water. Further, schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed, and with the widening divide between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, many children are unable to access remote learning. The combined impact on nutrition has been manifold. An additional 370 million children have missed out on nutritious meals due to closure of schools. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in obesity with less physical activity, poor diets, and disturbed schedules. The pandemic has also left millions of children without routine vaccines.
The COVID surge and the subsequent lockdowns have exposed children to a greater risk of violence while being cutting off from the vital support services required for a healthy growth. While children are the main reservoir for seasonal coronaviruses causing common cold/flu, which likely gives them some immunity against SARS-CoV-2; they are still not completely safe from the effects of COVID-19. Although lesser children are getting infected with the virus, some with underlying conditions—those who are immunocompromised (malnourished children), and those with diabetes, genetic disorders and obesity—can have severe illness. Even though children are not super-spreaders, but with emerging variants and adults vaccinated, children getting vaccinated could be beneficial to achieve herd immunity.