EFFECTS OF COVID -19 ON CHILDREN’S PSYCHOSOCIAL WELL-BEING
The Covid -19 crisis can bring with it opportunities for personal growth and family cohesion, disadvantages may outweigh these benefits for children. It may be a particularly challenging time especially for children with special needs, such as children with disabilities, traumatic experiences, already existing mental health problems, migrant background and low socio-economic status. The effect could include but not limited to;
Feeling of Anxiety:
Children especially older ones, are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety and fear, this can include the types of fears that are very similar to those experienced by adults, such as a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying and been left alone, the fear of who will take care of me if care -givers dies or a fear of what it means to receive medical treatment for Covid -19.
Lack of peer contact:
If schools have closed as part of necessary measures, then children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by that environment, and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support that is essential for good mental well-being.
Reduced opportunities for stress regulation:
Some children and young people may be feeling more isolated, bored and uncertain. They may feel fear, and grief, over the impact of the virus on their families which could be psychologically stressing resulting in inability to cope with the stress.
Increased risk for mental illness:
School closure, lack of outdoor activity, aberrant dietary and sleeping habits are likely to disrupt children’s usual lifestyle and can potentially promote distress, impatience, annoyance and varied neuropsychiatric manifestations
Poor households have less secure sources of income and fewer assets, less access to healthcare and more co-morbidities, and fewer tools to connect to distance learning whether a television, a radio, or an online device, and are more likely to pull children out of schools. Similarly, children with disabilities and special needs are especially hard to serve through distance programmes during this covid -19 period. Furthermore, the longer schools remain closed during pandemic period and the deeper the economic contraction wrought by the pandemic on children .
Many children get their only meal a day in schools. Globally, almost half of all school children rely on school for regular sources of nutrition with the lockdown it becomes difficult despite UNICEF effort to provide food to homes with children.
Not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to keep themselves safe online, this leaves them vulnerable to online sexual exploitation, violence, and bullying. Children’s reliance on online platforms for distance learning has also increased their risk of exposure to inappropriate content and online predators
As a result of social distancing, lockdown orders and repurposed infrastructure, many routine immunization campaigns have been paused around the world, leaving children vulnerable to the potential resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.
For most children, home represents a source of security and safety. But for a minority, the opposite is tragically the case. Violence by caregivers is the most common form of violence experienced by children, especially during the covid 19 period. Children are also often witnesses to domestic violence against women, the rates of which are thought to have increased in many countries, as detailed in the policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women. Such acts of violence are more likely to occur while families are confined at home and experiencing intense stress and anxiety
Lockdowns during this covid 19 period, come with heightened risk of children witnessing or suffering violence and abuse. Children in conflict settings, as well as those living in unsanitary and crowded conditions such as refugee and IDP settlements are more affected and the children from marginalized communities are particularly susceptible to the infection and may suffer from extended ill-consequences of this pandemic, such as child labor, child trafficking, child marriage, sexual exploitation and death and so on. Children of single parent and frontline workers suffer unique problems also.
Threats to child survival and health:
Economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020.
Falling into poverty:
An estimated 42-66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of Covid -19 crisis, this year according to WHO, adding to the estimated 386 million children already in extreme poverty in 2019.
Children with disabilities are among those most dependent on face-to-face services which includes; health, education and protection that have been suspended as part of social distancing and lockdown measures. They are also least likely to benefit from distance learning solutions. Children living in institutions and detention, including child migrants face a different kind of vulnerability as their continued care is easily put in jeopardy at a time of crisis.