UN: COVID-19 pushing millions of South Asia children into poverty

Over 100 million children in South Asia may fall into poverty due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a United Nations (UN) report published Tuesday, 23 June, studying the long-term implications of the pandemic.

South Asia is a highly densely populated region, and serves as home to nearly 25% of the global population. Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in recent weeks, prompting the UN to sound the alarm. Governments there have recently eased or lifted restrictions in a bid to revive their hard-hit economies.

“While they may be less susceptible to the virus itself, children are being profoundly affected by the fallout, including economic and social consequences of the lockdown,” said the report from the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Data from the agency show there are about 600 million children in the region, of which 240 million already live in poverty. The worst-case scenario in six months could see another 120 million children become poor, all while threatening food security globally. Healthcare has also been “severely disrupted” by the pandemic, with immunisation, nutrition and other services coming to a halt.

South Asia includes India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“Without urgent action now, COVID-19 could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation,” said UNICEF South Asia regional director Jean Gough in a statement.

The closure of schools can also render more young people out of school. “There are concerns that some disadvantaged students may join the nearly 32 million children who are already out of school before COVID-19 struck,” noted the report.

Domestic violence, depression and mental health issues are also major concerns for children, as they spend more time stuck at home.

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