The world is facing a global health crisis that we must urgently address.
When children live in an unstable environment in the family or have lost family relationships at an early age, they can have lasting consequences for the rest of their lives.
This is what we see in our work, day by day.
We see it when we meet children like Alexander * eight-year-old * and his 10-year-old sister Natalyia, both living in Ukraine. Sadly, sooner or later their mother dies, and they are raised as single parents. The child-care authorities in the area hand them over to their father, Ivan. But because of the COVID-19 epidemic, Ivan lost his job and found himself unable to care for children adequately.
The plague has exacerbated the suffering of children like Alexander and Natalyia worldwide.
The epidemic and the measures taken to reduce it have affected every child, every family, every community. But it hit very insecure.
Millions of people like Ivan, who had been in the predicament of before COVID-19, are now facing many other responsibilities and pressures, and find it impossible to care for their children properly.
Children suffer in various ways
Many children have lost their parents or caregivers primarily because of the virus. According to a study published in The Lancet, “more than 1.5 million children worldwide have lost one parent, guardian grandparent, or grandparents due to the death of COVID-19 in the first 14 months of the epidemic”. This suggests that for two adults who have died of COVID-19, one child is left without a caregiver.
These children are being cared for by a relative, who often struggles with other financial problems. Orphans who cannot be cared for by a relative, meanwhile, are cared for by the state – which affects their lives.
But it is not just children who have lost a caregiver who is suffering from the flu.
The plague has left hundreds of millions of children living in extreme poverty, social unrest, and starvation. Many families, who have never experienced the death of a pandemic, struggle to keep up and find that they are unable to meet the basic needs of their children.
The insanity and madness caused by the epidemic are also destroying families and as a result children. Parents and other primary caregivers face unforeseen challenges due to lack of funding, lack of children, school closures, and limited access to health care or other services. The mental and emotional needs are not fully identified and the work is often not available.
This has led to an increase in violence and child neglect. And many parents have resorted to subterfuge, such as sending their children away. The number of children being cared for elsewhere in our programs, as a result of caregivers failing to continue to care for them, has risen by 26 percent in 2020, compared to 2019.
The same children have been telling us how the plague has changed their lives negatively. Some said they did not feel safe at home.
A global study by # CovidUnder19, in which more than 26,000 children and adults from 137 countries participated, found that children living in foster care often experience anxiety, fatigue or frustration during the epidemic.
Young people have also suffered a lot during these difficult times. Many of those who left our programs just before the epidemic returned to us seeking help, claiming they had been fired, found that they could not continue their education away or could not pay rent.
And the problem of child care is growing.
Delays and uneven availability of vaccines in many parts of the world put more and more children at risk – leaving many children at risk of losing their parents and caregivers.
We can’t stand it and let this go on.
The plague has highlighted the growing problem of care in all parts of the world. Although some governments have provided emergency assistance to families, in some places assistance is not forthcoming.
Development agencies helped to meet the urgent needs of families and children. However, this does not provide a long, consistent answer.
The key to solving this unprecedented problem is political and economic commitment.
Governments should take the lead in addressing these urgent problems to address other issues for individuals, families and the community as a whole.
This requires a detailed, well-organized and well-managed response that focuses on those most at risk. This includes the activities of all children and their families such as education, health, mental health and psychological support, family planning and other direct assistance such as transfers, benefits for all children or other forms of financial assistance.
Global vaccination is also important – it is the only way to end the epidemic. It would not be logical for all of us to be able to protect our health by protecting everyone’s health.
And finally, governments need to invest in child protection measures that can meet their needs over time. This gives each child a better chance of success in life.
Secret services, government agencies, children and their families should all be part of the solution together with governments. This is the only way that children like Alexander and Natalie can have a better life.
We all have to do our part. With both hands on the harbor. The world will be a better place if every child is loved and supported.
* All names have been changed.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.