Current evidence from across the world indicates that children have largely been spared the severe illness and mortality affecting adults as a result of Covid-19. Yet, there are growing concerns that children are bearing the brunt of this pandemic.
A bitter legacy of poverty and violence
The health of South Africa's children was already under threat long before the advent of Covid-19 - with nearly 60% living in poverty, 30% without access to water on site and 18% in overcrowded households. It is therefore not surprising that lower respiratory tract infections and acute diarrhoea are two of the leading causes of under-five mortality, and that 49% of child hospital deaths are associated with malnutrition.
Violence against women and children is widespread, with 99% of children in the Birth-to-Twenty study having either experienced or witnessed violence, and over 40% reporting multiple incidents of violence in their homes, schools and communities.
Covid-19, lockdown and recession - a perfect storm
These pre-existing patterns of adversity, combined with a fragile and fractured health care system, have left children extremely vulnerable when exposed to shocks such as Covid-19. The associated lockdown and economic recession are causing significant collateral damage, as rising unemployment and financial hardship...