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Protect a Generation: The impact of COVID-19 on children's lives

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

LONDON, 10 September – 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:

· Two thirds of the children had no contact with teachers at all, during lockdown; eight in ten children believed they had learned little or nothing since schools closed.

· 93% of households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services.

· Violence at home doubled when schools were closed: when schools were closed, the reported rate was 17% compared to 8% when schools were open and the child was able to attend in person.

· 63% of girls are more often tasked to do more chores around the house, compared to 43% of boys.

· Investment in education, health and nutrition, mental health services and safety nets are urgently needed.

The findings were launched today in a new 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 across 37 countries where Save the Children works 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. Nine in ten households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services. 45% of respondents from poor households reported having trouble paying for medical supplies during the pandemic.

Solema’s* son Sayeed* was only six weeks old when violence erupted in Myanmar and they were forced to flee their home. They spent many weeks in the jungle and eventually crossed the border into Bangladesh to join hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

“We run a shop, so we can buy our groceries with our earnings,” she says. “We receive our rations twice a month. [Since the COVID-19 outbreak], we don’t profit much as we had to close down the shop. They tell us to close down our shop and stay safe at home. The government people announce it on the microphone every day.”

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

Around 37% of poorer families reported difficulties paying for learning materials, compared to 26% of families who classified themselves as non-poor. Two thirds of the children said they had no contact with teachers at all during lockdown, increasing to eight in ten in East and Southern Africa.

One 12-year-old girl from the Philippines said:

“The government must provide the needs of children especially in our studies. We live in rural areas, and we do not have access to distant learning.”

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. 63% of the girls said they are doing more chores around the house and more than half (52%) reported they were spending more time caring for siblings. Among boys, that was 43% and 42% respectively. 20% of girls reported that they have too many chores to do to be able to learn, compared to 10% of boys.

The Save the Children survey also found that:

· More than 8 in 10 (83%) of children reported an increase in negative feelings;

· Almost two thirds of the households (62%) found it difficult to provide their families with varied, nutritious food during the pandemic;

· 19% of households in which children reported violence had lost any of their income due to COVID-19, compared to 5% when there had been no income loss.

One 15-year-old Bangladeshi boy had a message for the leader of his country:

“I would like to request the Honourable Prime Minister to give a tight lockdown to the whole country if we want to control Coronavirus very soon. There is no alternative. Please increase the amount of Coronavirus tests. Make it easy for ordinary people to get tested. Provide food to unemployed people as a result of lockdown.”

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children, said:

“COVID-19, has widened existing inequities. The poor became poorer, with a devastating impact on children’s access to healthcare, food, education and protection.

“To protect an entire generation of children from losing out on a healthy and stable future, the world needs to urgently step up with debt relief for low-income countries and fragile states, so they can invest in the lives of their children. The needs of children and their opinions need to be at the centre of any plans to build back what the world has lost over the past months, to ensure that they will not pay the heaviest price.”

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, violence or exploitation, and to support children’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.



Multimedia content and case studies from Bangladesh available here.

CEO Inger Ashing available for interviews. Spokespeople also available in Sweden, UK, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Singapore.

*name changed to protect identity


· 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.

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

Read the full report