COVID-19 is the worst crisis for children in UNICEF’s 75-year history. Without action, the world faces a lost decade for children, leaving the Sustainable Development Goals an impossible dream.
In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 per cent increase since 2019.
In a best-case scenario, it will take seven to eight years to recover and return to pre-COVID-19 child poverty levels.
The deep disparity in recovery from the pandemic is widening the gap between richer and poorer countries. While richer countries are recovering, poorer countries are saddled with debt and development gains are falling behind. The poverty rate continues to rise in low-income countries and least developed countries.
For the best-case scenario to become a reality, we must take action now.
Even before the pandemic, around 1 billion children worldwide, and half of all children in developing countries, suffered at least one severe deprivation, without minimum levels of access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water.
The world stands at a crossroads. We must decide to either protect and expand the gains made for child rights over years, or suffer the consequences of reversed progress and a lost decade for today’s children and young people, which will be felt by all of us, everywhere.
But there’s hope
Far from feeling powerless in the face of challenge, today’s children and young people welcome change and challenges, forging ahead with resilience and courage. Rather than consigning themselves to an already determined future, they are taking action. Today’s young generation are more hopeful and confident that the world is becoming a better place.
Today’s crises also present a unique window of opportunity for the world to reimagine itself – as a fair, safe, interdependent whole in which every child’s potential stands an equal chance of fulfillment.
For 75 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading architect and advocate for child rights, whose work in delivering for every child, especially in times of crisis, is as critical today as ever.
This is not a moment to be cautious. This is the time to work together and build a better future.
What must happen
Make our collective future – our children – first in line for investment and last in line for cuts.
This agenda for action is based on UNICEF’s 75 years of experience, research and practice and 75 years of listening to children and young people.
To respond and recover and to reimagine the future for every child, UNICEF continues to call for:
Investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery
Ending the pandemic and reversing the alarming rollback in child health and nutrition – including through leveraging UNICEF’s vital role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Building back stronger by ensuring quality education, protection and good mental health for every child
Building resilience to better prevent, respond to and protect children from crises – including new approaches to end famines, protect children from climate change and reimagine disaster spending