We’re all feeling the weight of COVID-19. But in the communities where Compassion works, things are becoming desperate. Although children seem to have less severe symptoms from COVID-19, the long-term ripple effects of the pandemic could be devastating for the world’s children.
Today I want to talk to you about something that may be hard and that we may want to look away from. But at Compassion, we know that we can’t look away from the hard things that impact the world’s children.
Although medical professionals are reporting that COVID-19 has a lower mortality rate for the young, with a pandemic of this size, it will inevitably take some of the youngest from us. And for children living in communities with less developed healthcare systems, they will be even more vulnerable to the disease.
But beyond the heartbreaking number of lives that will be lost due to contracting the disease, we know that the long-term impact on children in poverty could be dire.
Children, and particularly children in poverty, seem to always bear the worst burdens during global crises. Here are a few of the ways we anticipate this situation affecting children.
How will COVID-19 affect education for children in poverty?
More than 1.5 billion children and youths are out of school. Many of the world’s poorest children have no access to the internet at home or electronic devices with which to engage in online learning. These are the same children who already have lowered outcomes in school because of the impacts of poverty: school interruptions due to an inability to pay fees, difficulty focusing on schoolwork because of labor activities, etc. In short, COVID-19 could put those who are the most disadvantaged even further behind in school.
How will COVID-19 affect child labor?
Child labor around the world has been steadily decreasing with rising incomes. However, as unemployment rises, child labor may as well, as children are forced to help their parents feed the family. If children are orphaned or become the heads of household, they may have to drop out of school to provide for themselves and their siblings.
How will COVID-19 impact child abuse?
Tragically, around the world countries are seeing indications that domestic violence is rising during this crisis. In some countries, calls to helplines are up, while on the other hand, reporting of child abuse may be down with children out of school. Some experts believe that the pandemic might result in an increase in child marriage as families move below the poverty line due to income loss. Europol is also reporting that criminals are using the pandemic to exploit children online. And if more children become orphaned, their vulnerability to trafficking and other forms of exploitation will rise.
How will COVID-19 impact other health issues?
If healthcare systems become overwhelmed or children have less access to healthcare centers, this can increase the number of deaths from other causes such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. For example, in West Africa, deaths from these causes spiked after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015. In some countries, vaccination campaigns have also ceased.
How will COVID-19 impact malnutrition and child deaths?
Many children around the world rely on school meals for daily nutrition. With this vital source of food removed for many children and parents unable to work, malnutrition and stunting could increase.
In fact, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warns:
“With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020.”
Let us speak out on behalf of these children.
Scriptures command us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to advocate for the rights of all those who are destitute (Proverbs 31:8). There can be no greater cause than to advocate for the needs of children, particularly those who are vulnerable. Each one of us can and should act.
Let us rise up as the Church to help the most vulnerable.
We believe the Church is the way God wants to touch this hurting world. That’s why at Compassion we partner with the local church to bring care to the most vulnerable children in the world.
We believe God is inspiring his Church to rise up. To be the light-bearers in this dark time. To offer physical, emotional and spiritual support to children in need. Indeed, the need for Compassion’s ministry will only increase dramatically as the full impact of COVID-19 becomes clear.
We ask, I ask, that you rise up as one with the Church. If you are still in a position where you are able to, please give to help children who will become even more vulnerable to the devastating effects of poverty. Help the church around the world ensure they are safe, fed, loved, known and protected.