UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday warned in a new report of growing consequences for children as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.
While symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering, said the report entitled "Averting a Lost COVID Generation."
Released ahead of World Children's Day, it is the first UNICEF report to comprehensively outline the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic lurches toward a second year.
"Disruptions to key services and soaring poverty rates pose the biggest threat to children. The longer the (COVID-19) crisis persists, the deeper its impact on children's education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Regarding school closures, the report said that while children can transmit the virus to each other and to older age groups, there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them.
"Schools are not a main driver of community transmission, and children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings," the report stressed.
Using new data from UNICEF surveys across 140 countries, the report warned that COVID-19-related disruptions to critical health and social services including basic nutrition, routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, maternal health services, and home visits by social workers, pose the most serious threats to children.
UNICEF is calling on governments and partners to secure basic education for children, guarantee and increase their access to nutrition, clean water, sanitation and basic mental and physical health services (including vaccines), curb rising child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery for all.
The agency also advocated redoubled efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflict, disaster and displacement.
"This World Children's Day, we are asking governments, partners and the private sector to listen to children and prioritize their needs," Fore said. "As we all reimagine the future and look ahead toward a post-pandemic world, children must come first." Enditem