Up to 86 million more children could live in poor households by the end of the year if countries don’t take more urgent action to address the economic crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, reports UNICEF.
Child poverty is projected to rise by 15% in 2020, largely due to the pandemic and its economic effects, according to an analysis by UNICEF and Save the Children released Thursday. The groups looked at World Bank data across more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.
The report did not include higher-income countries, including the U.S., France, Japan. An analysis that includes all nations should be released in the coming months, a UNICEF spokesperson said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global economic downturn in the wake of broad shutdowns of businesses to prevent the virus’ spread. A significant loss of income for many families has left them unable to afford basic necessities, including food, housing and more.
The majority of children expected to be living below their country’s poverty line by year’s end reside in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, per UNICEF. However, low- and middle-income countries in Europe and central Asia may see the most significant increases, of up to 44% more children in poverty, the analysis reported, and in Latin America the overall increase could be 22%.
“The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented socio-economic crisis that is draining resources for families all over the world,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a release. “The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threaten to roll back years of progress… Without concerted action, families barely getting by could be pushed into poverty, and the poorest families could face levels of deprivation that have not been seen for decades.”
UNICEF recommends countries step up their social supports to families with “rapid and large-scale expansion” of services, including cash transfers, child benefits and food distribution through schools. The group also recommends broader policies to support children and families, including universal access to health care, paid job leave and expanded child care.
Nearly 6 million confirmed coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide as of Thursday, with a death toll of more than 350,000 dead. In Brazil, the outbreak’s new epicenter, more than 400,000 confirmed cases have been reported and its public health systems are reaching their breaking points.
The coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact have also been deeply felt in higher-income countries, including the U.S., which currently leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and deaths.
The U.S. this week reached grim milestones of more than 100,000 dead from COVID-19 and more than 40 million people who’ve filed for unemployment since March. Surveys of American households late last month suggested that food insecurity had roughly doubled nationwide amid the pandemic.