World Vision India urgently calls on civil society organisations and leaders to attend and respond to the deadly long-term impact of COVID-19 on India’s most vulnerable, especially children. The Unmasking the Impact of COVID-19 on Asia’s Most Vulnerable Children early recovery assessment report released by World Vision Asia Pacific, reveals that resulting economic, psychosocial, and physical strain on Indian families has negatively affected all aspects of child well-being including access to food, nutrition, healthcare, essential medicines, hygiene and sanitation facilities, as well as child protection and safety.
“People in our communities have become very depressed. No one imagined that we would come to such a state of depression which is forcing children to go to work. A lot of children during this time are involved in child labour. There are many children who are selling vegetables on the streets. The parents have not been able to go to work and this has affected the economy of the family. Children have become depressed seeing the plight of their parents” says 15-year old Sheetal.
The early recovery assessment report based on data gathered from 5668 households across 119 districts from 24 states and 2 union territories (Delhi and Kashmir) highlighted that the livelihoods of more than 60% of parents or caregivers were fully or severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily workers who are the largest segment in the survey are the hardest hit. The loss of livelihoods that has resulted from government lockdown measures has become the top-most concern for the rural and urban poor. About 67% of urban parents/caregivers have reported the loss of jobs or income reduction in the previous weeks.
Over 385 million children live in extreme poverty across the world. Of these, India is home to 30 percent, the highest in South Asia. The impact of COVID-19 is threatening to reverse decades of progress in the fight against poverty and income inequalities, potentially stalling India’s economic growth at zero percent, in 2020, and putting millions of children at increased risk. “Women and children are usually the worst affected in any disaster. The COVID-19 crisis is proving to be no different. It is causing cascading damage to poor and vulnerable children — through stretched health services, inadequate medical supplies, higher risk of violence & exploitation, minimal access to education and lower intake of nutritious food stemming from the severe drop in income levels in families. The findings in our Recovery Assessment Report are a timely call to all stakeholders to respond as best as they can to this difficult situation, which may continue for several months, with continued increase in infections in many countries” says Cherian Thomas, Regional Leader, World Vision International, South Asia and Pacific region.
Results of the report reveal that 55.1% of the interviewed households could get only two meals a day, which indicated limited access to basic food supplies due to affordability challenges. Access to adequate water and sanitation remains a challenge, which increases the risk of malnutrition and the spread of the diseases, including COVID-19. The stress on families related to loss of income, lack of school, change of children’s behaviour and quarantine measures contributes to children experiencing physical punishment and emotional abuse. The report also indicates that 40% of children are stressed out due to the current situation.
While the potential longer-term effects on the global economy and individual countries are dire, World Vision India calls on relevant authorities to prioritise the most vulnerable people by providing intense socio-economic and technical support. The report offers short, medium, and long-term recommendations for government, multi-lateral and implementing partners to meet the needs of vulnerable children and protect them from diseases, including all forms of violence.