Braving the pandemic: How severe is the impact of COVID-19 on children in India?

"The cost of the pandemic for children is immediate, and if we don't address this, it is going to persist for years," said UNICEF India representative Dr Yasmin Ali Haque.

For many months now, the world has been suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is the vulnerable population of children and the elderly that has been hit the hardest. For kids, specifically, there has been a lot of confusion as to what this pandemic is all about, why the adults are suddenly plagued by anxiety, why their schools have closed, and why they cannot meet their friends, among other things.

Ahead of World Children’s Day on November 20, UNICEF India, in partnership with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) of South Asia, held an online panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 crisis on children in India.

During a Facebook live, a prolific panel discussed the many challenges that kids have faced this year, and how the entire experience can be made a little easier for them. Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, a representative at UNICEF India, said: “The secondary and long-term impact [of the pandemic] will be grave on children, unless we take action. Because of household incomes going down and basic services disrupted, we know this is affecting children. We have seen that children’s routine has been disrupted, it has turned upside down. They are not able to socialise with their friends, and that has added more layers, because within the house, there has been a surge in violence, especially domestic violence. What we are seeing is that the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded as a child’s right’s crisis.”

“The cost of the pandemic for children is immediate, and if we don’t address this, it is going to persist for years,” she said.

To this, Dr Dhir Jhingran, the founder, director of Language and Learning Foundation, said: “It is one of the gravest learning crises we have ever faced. The learning loss that children have suffered over the past seven or eight months is huge. Almost all students have been affected, but the learning loss has been more severe for the younger children whose foundational skills had not stabilised.

“Schools must reopen. And they will reopen. When, we are not very sure. And it all depends upon when it is possible to open schools safely, ensuring everyone’s health. And that would determine if this was going to be a fully missed out gap year, or a kind of truncated year.”

Also on the panel were Munish Gupta, the secretary of FCC South Asia, S Venkat Narayan, the president of FCC South Asia, Zafrin Chowdhury, the chief of communications, advocacy and partnership for UNICEF in India, and Enakshi Ganguly. You can watch the entire video here:

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