How many children have died from COVID-19?

Among the 3.5 million COVID-19 deaths1 reported in the MPIDR COVerAGE database, 0.4 per cent (over 12,300) occured in children and adolescents under 20 years of age. Of the over 12,300 deaths reported in those under 20 years of age, 58 per cent occurred among adolescents ages 10–19, and 42 per cent among children ages 0–9.

Data correct as of January 2022. For more information, including age and sex disaggregated data, visit our interactive dashboard.

1based off 65 per cent of the total global deaths reported by JHU.

 

The available evidence indicates the direct impact of COVID-19 on child, adolescent and youth mortality to be limited. However, there is concern that the indirect effects of the pandemic on mortality in these age groups stemming from strained health systems, household income loss, and disruptions to care-seeking and preventative interventions like vaccination may be more substantial.

The UN IGME undertook an analysis of excess mortality among children, adolescents and youth in 2020 for its most recent annual report: Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2021, which provides country, regional and global estimates of mortality for ages 0-24 years up to 2020. Importantly, excess mortality analysis considers all deaths that have occurred in a specific time and place, and thus should capture both direct COVID-19 deaths and any indirect deaths resulting from pandemic-related disruptions. That analysis, which included empirical data on mortality in 2020 from more than 80 countries and areas, found no evidence of significant excess mortality among those under age 25 for 2020.

While the evidence thus far does not point to any increase in child and youth mortality related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, these data have limitations and caution must be taken with their interpretation. First, the available data for the excess mortality analysis disproportionally represents high-income countries and the pandemic may unfold differently in low- and middle-income countries. Likewise, some of these data may suffer from underreporting during the pandemic, thus data quality is also of concern. More quality data representing the widest array of country characteristics is greatly needed to better understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality. Second, national level estimates can obscure subnational variation and the pandemic may unfold differently at subnational levels. Disaggregated data by age and subnational level will be critical to assessing the pandemic’s impact on child survival. Finally, caution should be taken in assuming 2021 will be like 2020. COVID-19 has shown its ability to change in unpredictable and unexpected ways. The surge of the Delta variant, the rollout and uneven access to vaccines both between and within countries, the relative decline in countrywide lockdown policies and personal precaution taking, and the economy in 2021 are just some of the pandemic’s evolving aspects that could result in a different mortality outcome for children and youth in 2021 compared to 2020. Moreover, some of the indirect mortality effects arising from disruptions to services like immunization for example, may not be apparent for some time.

Gains in child survival are dependent on the continued provision of essential health services to women and children around the world. While the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on economies, movement, and child health is not entirely clear, if life-saving interventions are disrupted, many more children could die of treatable and preventable conditions. This is a call to not only invest in women and children by continuing to provide critical services and supplies, but also to provide the evidence base for sound and informed decision-making. More data and research are urgently needed to foster a more nuanced understanding of how and why child mortality has changed since the pandemic began, and to ensure children and adolescents do not succumb to preventable deaths.

The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, led by UNICEF, will continue to assess the impact of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mortality in 2020 and beyond as more data become available. Timely, high-quality, and disaggregated data will be critical to achieving this goal. While UNICEF and its partners continue to monitor and report on this pandemic’s impact on children, please find below additional resources on COVID-19 and mortality. This list is to be updated as new resources become available.

 

Resources on COVID-19 and mortality

Latest update: 20 December 2021

Dashboards or databases on excess and COVID-19-related mortality

 

Indirect deaths from COVID-19 pandemic

 

Direct deaths from COVID-19

 

Guidance

 

Tools

  • Estimating Excess Mortality From COVID-19 – Prevent Epidemics
    A guide for producing and presenting findings on mortality patterns related to COVID-19 within countries, states, and cities, including weekly and monthly excess mortality calculators (available in English, French, and Spanish)
  • The Lives Saved Tool (LiST): Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    LiST is a model that estimates the impact of changes in intervention coverage on child and maternal mortality in low- and middle-income countries. LiST can give researchers and policy makers critical information to assess the potential impact of health intervention policy or programs and can be used to conduct scenario-based projections to gage the impact of the reduction of intervention coverage due to COVID-19 on child and maternal mortality8.

References

  1. Elston JWT, Cartwright C, Ndumbi P, Wright J. The health impact of the 2014–15 Ebola outbreak. Public Health 2017; 143: 60–70.
  2. Sochas L, Channon AA, Nam S. Counting indirect crisis-related deaths in the context of a low-resilience health system: The case of maternal and neonatal health during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Health Policy Plan 2017; 32: iii32–9.
  3. Ribacke KJB, Saulnier DD, Eriksson A, Schreeb J von. Effects of the West Africa Ebola virus disease on health-care utilization – A systematic review. Front Public Heal 2016; 4: 1–12.
  4. Chang HJ, Huang N, Lee CH, Hsu YJ, Hsieh CJ, Chou YJ. The Impact of the SARS Epidemic on the Utilization of Medical Services: SARS and the Fear of SARS. Am J Public Health 2004; 94: 562–4.
  5. World Health Organization. Vaccination Must be Scaled up in Ebola-Affected Countries. 2015. [Last accessed on 2020 April 21]. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/vaccination-ebola-countries/en/
  6. Takahashi S, Metcalf CJ, Ferrari MJ, Moss WJ, Truelove SA, Tatem AJ, et al. Reduced vaccination and the risk of measles and other childhood infections post-Ebola. Science. 2015; 347:1240–2.
  7. World Health Organization. Liberia tackles measles as the Ebola epidemic comes to an end. June 2015. [Last accesed on 2020 April 21]. https://www.who.int/features/2015/measles-vaccination-liberia/en/
  8. Roberton T, Carter ED, Chou VB, Stegmuller A, Jackson BD, Tam Y, Sawadogo-Lewis T, Walker N. Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study. The Lancet Global Health. Published: May 12, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30229-1