ISLAMABAD: Pakistan celebrated World Children’s Day on Friday with 30 iconic monuments and landmarks across the country turning blue from Khyber Pass to Mazar-i-Quaid in Karachi, from Lahore Fort to Quaid-i-Azam Residency in Ziarat and through Pakistan Monument in Islamabad.

Releasing a new report on the occasion, Unicef warned of significant and growing consequences for children as the Covid-19 pandemic lurches towards a second year, jeopardising their rights.

‘Averting a Lost COVID Generation’ is the first Unicef report that comprehensively outlines the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic drags on. It shows that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.

Unicef warns of consequences for children as Covid lurches towards second year

The report finds that, as of Nov 3, in 87 countries with age-disaggregated data, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for one in nine of Covid-19 infections, or 11 per cent of the 25.7 million infections reported by these countries. More reliable, age-disaggregated data on infection, deaths and testing is needed to better understand how the crisis impacts the most vulnerable children and guide the response.

“The Covid-19 crisis is a child rights crisis. We must work together to avert a lost generation as the global pandemic threatens to cause irreversible harm to children’s education, nutrition and well-being,” said Unicef repres­entative in Pakistan Aida Girma. “This includes making sure that every child and adolescent can continue to access the essential services that are their rights so they can survive, stay healthy, learn and fulfil their potential.

While children can transmit the virus to each other and to older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them, the report notes. Schools are not a main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings.

Covid-related disruptions to critical health and social services for children pose the most serious threat to children, the report says.

The report says 65 countries reported a decrease in home visits by social workers in September 2020, compared to the same time last year.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2020