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10 September 2020 - News

COVID-19: Children from poorest households across the globe have suffered greatest loss of family income, missed out most on education and faced the highest risk of violence at home

Save the Children conducts largest global survey of its kind among some 25,000 children and adults on the impact of the pandemic  

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the education of children from poorer backgrounds and is widening the gap between rich and poor and boys and girls, a new global survey by Save the Children revealed today. In the six months since the pandemic was announced, the most vulnerable children have disproportionately missed out on access to education, healthcare, food, and suffered the greatest protection risks.  

The global survey revealed that in Latin America:  

  • 7 in ten children believed they had learned little or nothing since schools closed. Also, 3 out of 10 parents believe that their children will not back to school. 
  • Almost 81 of households reported lost over half of their income due to the pandemic and 66% lost their job.   
  • Investment in education, health and nutrition, mental health services and safety nets are urgently needed. 

The findings were launched today in the report Protect A Generation, based on the largest ever global survey of its kind since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared six months ago. Some 25,000 children and their caregivers shared their experiences, fears and hopes during this unprecedented global crisis.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in fact, widened inequalities along wealth and gender lines, the survey found – with poorer households more likely to suffer income losses (82%) than those not classified as poor (70%). 

When it comes to health, the survey showed the same concerning divide along wealth lines. In Latin America, 71,7% of respondents have trouble paying for food and almost 33% have trouble paying for healthcare. 

Less than 1% of the poorer children interviewed had access to the internet for distance learning. Among households that classified themselves as non-poor, it was 19%.  

In Latin America, around 36% of parents and caregivers reported not to support children or to support children just a little bit with their learning at home. Also, almost 46% of children reported that they need learning materials. 

Children who fall behind in their education run a greater risk of dropping out completely and falling victim to child labour, child marriage and other forms of exploitation. Save the Children estimates that this pandemic has caused the largest education emergency in history, with some 9.7 million children not returning to school this year

Girls are more heavily impacted than boys, by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Latin America, 5 out of 10 girls needs to do more household chores than before, and 3 out of 10 girls report to take more care of siblings or others than before.

Dayana is a 15-year-old girl who lives in the Sonsonate region in El Salvador. She told Save the Children:  

“My mum worked in a house taking care of babies. Because of the coronavirus, she could no longer go to work. We always did the cleaning but now we have to do it more often, to avoid getting sick. People are sad because the coronavirus has changed their lives and they can no longer do what they did before.” 

  • The Save the Children survey also found that in Latin America: Almost 67,9% of children reported an increase in negative feelings; 
  • Almost 68% of respondents reported having barriers to access meat, dairy etc. The main barrier is that food is too expensive (43,3%);
  • Almost 84% of parents and caregivers reported their child has expressed negative feelings.

Victoria Ward, Regional Director of Save the Children, said: “COVID-19, has widened existing inequities in our region. The most vulnerable children are suffering a devastating impact on their access to healthcare, food, education and safety.” 

Urgent actions need to be taken in favour of children: It is necessary to ensure that all children return to school and access to quality education. In addition, governments must expand national provisions for social protection, provide child protection services, protection against gender-based violence and mental health with good resources, inclusive and gender-sensitive”.

Save the Children urges governments to make sure children out of school have access to quality distance learning materials, that catch up classes are offered to children who have fallen behind and that all children have equal access to learning after schools reopen.   

To prevent shocks from future pandemics, governments need to build social safety nets and strong health and nutrition systems, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised households. Resources are also urgently needed for positive parenting programmes, to ensure children have access to inclusive protection services during and after lockdowns where they can be supported if they’ve fallen victim to abuse, the violence or exploitation, and to support children who suffer from mental health issues.   

Download the executive summary here


To support Save the Children’s global COVID-19 emergency appeal, click here. 

Notes to editors:  

  • Save the Children held the largest survey of its kind since the pandemic was announced, to generate evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on children.  
  • Save the children interviewed 8,069 children between 11 and 17 years old and 17,565 adults across 37 countries, all beneficiaries of Save the Children. Most of the interviewed children were in Asia (45%), followed by East and southern Africa (20%), Latin America (14%), the Middle East (10%) and West and Central Africa (8%). The surveys were done online and over the phone.