At least 5 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to covid

(CNN) — At least 5.2 million children worldwide have lost a parent, grandparent or relative who helped care for them to COVID-19, according to a new study.

The study, published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, analyzed COVID-19 mortality data from 21 countries from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 through October 2021 and estimated the number of children who lost a parent or caregiver. The number of affected children increased by 90% from the end of April 2020 to the end of October 2021.

While beyond the scope of the study, real-time data using the same model suggests the number of children who have lost a parent or caregiver is around 6.7 million as of January. This “hidden harrowing pandemic,” as the authors call it, has surpassed the total number of deaths from Covid-19, according to World Health Organization totals.

The study follows an earlier analysis published in July. The authors said they felt they needed to update it because “the proliferation of new coronavirus variants, updated mortality data, and disparities in access to vaccines have increased the number of children experiencing orphanhood associated with COVID-19.” .

The study authors, including researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Agency for Development (USAID), ), the World Bank, University College London, and elsewhere, believe their estimate is conservative. Many countries lack a robust death reporting system. Death from covid-19 in Africa, for example, is believed to be 10 times higher than known.

Of the children who lost their parents, three out of four lost their parents. Tweens and teens were more likely to be orphaned with two out of three children losing a parent. Previous studies have shown that in the US, racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected by this loss.

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They ask to help children orphaned by covid-19

The authors say that public health leaders need to consider these children in their future planning. Generally, when children lose a caregiver, their risk of poverty and mental health problems increases, as well as their vulnerability to exploitation and sexual violence. In some cases, losing a parent can also increase a child’s chance of becoming involved with gangs or violent extremists.

“We estimate that for every person who has died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a child is orphaned or loses a caregiver. That’s the equivalent of one child every six seconds facing a higher lifetime risk of adversity unless received the appropriate support in a timely manner,” lead author Dr. Susan Hillis, who worked on this study while at the CDC, said in a statement. “Support for orphaned children must be immediately integrated into all national Covid-19 response plans.”

Plans must include making sure everyone has equitable access to vaccines so no other child has to lose a parent, according to the study.

Societies must also ensure that these children have the support they need to cope with the risks of poverty and violence they may experience, as well as provide mental health support for their recovery.

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