UNICEF in a new report says that children account for 11.3 per cent of total COVID-19 infections in Nigeria just as it warns of a ‘lost generation’ as COVID-19 threatens to cause irreversible harm to children’s education, nutrition and well-being.
The report, released just ahead of World Children’s Day, stated as of November 3, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, indicated that globally, the number of children living in multidimensional poverty without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water is estimated to have soared by 15 per cent, or an additional 150 million children by mid-2020.
According to the report, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for 1 in 9 of COVID-19 infections, or 11 per cent of the 25.7 million infections reported by these countries. In Nigeria, children in the same age group accounted for 1 in 10 infections or 11.3 per cent of total infections.
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, stated since the pandemic started, there has been a false belief that children are not affected by COVID-19.
According to him, “Nothing can be further from the truth, including in Nigeria. While children are less likely to have severe symptoms of illness, they can be infected and the biggest impact by far is the disruptions to key services and increasing poverty rates, which are both having a huge impact on Nigerian children’s education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk globally and in Nigeria.”
Using new data from UNICEF surveys across 140 countries, it indicated that in Nigeria, coverage for health services such as routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, and maternal health services dropped by between 17 and 22.5 per cent compared to figures from 2019 in the same period. Fear of infection is a prominent reason.
The report added that around one-third of the countries analysed witnessed a drop of at least 10 per cent in coverage for health services such as routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, and maternal health services.
The alarming data from the report include “a 40 per cent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children across 135 countries. In Nigeria, that decline is estimated at 35 per cent. Sixty-five countries reported a decrease in-home visits by social workers in September 2020, compared to the same time last year – including Nigeria.
“An estimated 2 million additional child deaths and 200,000 additional stillbirths could occur over a 12-month period with severe interruptions to services and rising malnutrition.
“An additional 6 to 7 million children under the age of 5 will suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, a 14 per cent rise that will translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”