The COVID-19 pandemic is posing considerable challenges for countries to maintain the provision of high quality, essential child and adolescent health services. Though children and adolescents seem to have a lower risk of becoming severely ill and dying from COVID-19, there are concerning reports about serious, life-threatening inflammatory disease in children and, furthermore, we do not yet fully understand the long-term risks of COVID-19 infection.

Even if younger populations are less directly susceptible to the CoV-SARS-2 virus and COVID-19 illness, the strain on the health system caused by this pandemic causes considerable threats to children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing. Countries grappling with the pandemic may need to divert significant financial, commodity and human resources from regular service delivery to response efforts. Over the last few months, we have seen unprecedented disruptions in vaccine campaigns, insecticide-treated bednet distribution efforts and delivery of services for common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia. And, many families are unable to bring their children for care due to transportation disruptions and fear of contracting the disease if they go to a health facility. These disruptions could result in significant increases in preventable child mortality across the globe.

In addition, children and adolescents are having to cope with significant anxiety, stress and disruptions in their daily lives as a result of COVID-19 and pandemic response efforts, including school closures, lack of social gatherings, increased social isolation, and more. These stressors pose a serious challenge to mental health and wellbeing both in the short term and in the coming months and years.  Available evidence also suggests that children and adolescents are at an increased risk of exposure to violence under lockdown conditions, and adolescents may be at an elevated risk of HIV infection and early pregnancy.  All these factors can negatively impact child and adolescent health in the immediate and longer-term.

The full extent of COVID-19’s impact on economies, societies and health is still unknown and unfolding every day. Yet, if life-saving interventions are disrupted, many more children and adolescents could die from treatable and preventable conditions. Investments in health systems must be made to enable countries to both adequately respond to the pandemic and ensure the continuity of critical child and adolescent health services and supplies.

What UNICEF is doing

We are still learning how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting child and adolescent health.

UNICEF, along with key partners, is analyzing evidence on the effects of COVID-19 on child and adolescent health, including the direct/indirect mortality and morbidity from the pandemic.

We are also working with our partners to develop toolkits for countries to use to monitor health service disruptions and to adjust programs accordingly, and we are assessing how the socio-economic impacts of containment measures are affecting overall child and adolescent health and well-being.

Resources

The situation of children and vulnerabilities to COVID-19 response dashboard contains the latest data from UNICEF’s global databases that are relevant to the COVID-19 response for children and adolescents. Explore country-level data by gender, residence and wealth quintile.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) What you need to know about the virus to protect you and your family

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know How to protect yourself and your children.