10.5 million children have lost a parent or guardian to COVID, study finds

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The new study, co-authored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that 7,500,000 children were orphaned due to COVID.

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that at least 10,500,000 children worldwide lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 between January 1, 2020 and May 1, 2022.

The modeling study, co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), considers both primary and secondary caregivers. Primary caregivers include custodial parents or grandparents, while secondary caregivers include co-residing grandparents or parents under the age of 60.

The study also found that 7,500,000 children were orphaned due to COVID, defining orphanage as a child who has lost one or both parents.

The study uses the best available and most conservative data on excess COVID-19 mortality published by the World Health Organization (WHO) to update previous estimates. In October 2021, an estimated 5.2 million children had lost a parent or caregiver to COVID.

The CDC says the new data provides insight into the scale and potential long-term impacts of the pandemic.

“We know that orphanhood and/or loss of caregivers is a permanent condition, with lasting consequences following such global epidemics,” said study co-author, epidemiologist and researcher Dr. Andrés Villaveces. “The most effective way to implement and ensure the equitable delivery of evidence-based solutions is to assess the best available evidence at a granular level to identify the most affected countries and populations of children most at risk in these circumstances”.

Researchers have determined that there is an increased likelihood of becoming an orphan among children living in countries and regions with lower vaccination rates and higher fertility rates. The highest number of orphans associated with COVID-19 due to the loss of primary and/or secondary caregivers was noted in the WHO regions of South-East Asia (41%) and Africa (24%), by compared to the Eastern Mediterranean regions (15%). US regions (14%), Western Pacific regions (1.8%) and European regions (4.7%).

The most affected countries were India (3,490,000), Egypt (450,000), Nigeria (430,000) and Pakistan (410,000). In Bolivia and Peru, one in 50 children has lost a caregiver. In the United States, approximately 250,000 children have lost one or both parents.

Susan Hillis, the study’s lead author, said the loss of a parent or caregiver increases the risk of mental health problems, suicide, sexual exploitation and physical abuse, according to NPR. Julie Kaplow, executive vice president of trauma and bereavement programs at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, said bereavement is one of the biggest predictors of poor school performance.

Some countries have programs in place to support children who have lost their guardians. President Joe Biden released a memorandum promising affected American families could access support programs and “connect to the resources they may need to help with their healing, health and well-being.” Some families and communities have received support from federal and local programs such as Resources to Support Youth and Families During the COVID-19 Outbreak and the California Survivor Benefit (CalSurvivor) program.

Although some supports have been put in place, the study authors warn that not enough is being done to support deprived children. Carolyn Taverner, co-founder of Emma’s Place, which provides bereavement counseling in New York City, told the Washington Post that while resources were made available immediately afterwards, these tend to dwindle with the passing of time. time and it can take years for children to come to terms with death.

“The problem is that often children take a little longer to emotionally realize grief and loss,” she said.

The World Bank, an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to governments in low- and middle-income countries, seeks to provide countries with funding for “cash plus care initiatives”, says Lorraine Sherr, a psychologist at the College. university. London and member of the Global Reference Group.

“That means you give the family a stipend or a little cash injection, but you couple that with care – a kind of social support services, school and education related,” he said. she declared.

These programs would connect bereaved families with grassroots organizations or nonprofits that can provide mental health care and psychological support to children and the surviving parent or caregivers, NPR explains. Similar programs have been implemented in the wake of the HIV-AIDS crisis and have been shown to lessen the impact of trauma on children.

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