The ‘Unmasking the Impact of COVID-19 on Asia’s Most Vulnerable Children’ early recovery assessment report released by child-rights NGO World Vision Asia Pacific, found that resulting economic, psychosocial, and physical strain on Indian families has negatively affected all aspects of child well-being including access to food, nutrition, healthcare, essential medicines, hygiene and sanitation facilities, as well as child protection and safety.
The report based on data gathered from 5,668 households across 119 districts from 24 states and 2 union territories (Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir) during the period of April 1 to May 15 highlighted that the livelihoods of more than 60 per cent of parents or caregivers were fully or severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily workers, who are the largest segment in the survey, are the hardest hit and the loss of livelihoods that has resulted from government lockdown measures has become the top-most concern for the rural and urban poor, the survey found.
“About 67 per cent of urban parents/caregivers have reported loss of jobs or income reduction in the previous weeks,” it said.
The results of the report revealed that 55.1 per cent of the interviewed households could get only two meals a day, which indicated limited access to basic food supplies due to affordability challenges, the report said.
The study found that only 56 per cent of respondents always had access to hygiene items, and 40 per cent had access only sometimes.
“Access to adequate water and sanitation remains a challenge, which increases the risk of malnutrition and the spread of the diseases, including COVID-19.
“The stress on families related to loss of income, lack of school, change of children’s behaviour and quarantine measures contributes to children experiencing physical punishment and emotional abuse,” the report said.
The report also indicated that 40 per cent of children are stressed out due to the current situation.
“Women and children are usually the worst affected in any disaster. The COVID-19 crisis is proving to be no different. It is causing cascading damage to poor and vulnerable children — through stretched health services, inadequate medical supplies, higher risk of violence & exploitation, minimal access to education and lower intake of nutritious food stemming from the severe drop in income levels in families,” said Cherian Thomas, Regional Leader, World Vision International, South Asia and Pacific region.
The report which also covered other Asian countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka gave short and long term recommendations for helping the impacted communities.
In the short-term (through end of 2020), the report recommended scaling-up of social protection interventions for nutritious food, cash, and voucher assistance that are child-sensitive, gender-responsive which provide a pathway to broader social protection, optimising the targeting of beneficiaries in government social assistance schemes and increasing investment in public works programmes among others.
In the medium to long-term (2021-2022), the report recommended increasing government resources for these social assistance interventions, leveraging multi-sectoral responses to promote child well-being, invest in rebuilding of livelihood interventions that promote inclusion of vulnerable populations and women’s economic empowerment among others.