Today´s children will be the adults of tomorrow, and they are rightfully worried about the climate crisis for the same reasons and with the same urgency as everyone else is now about COVID-19. They are both life-and-death issues for humankind. More and more, youth activists take over high-visibility roles normally held by adults to call to action on a number of critical issues: climate change, access to education and health services, child poverty and malnutrition, child abuse… It is the duty of today´s leaders to listen to them and act. On World Children´s Day 2020, the EU renews its commitment to remain at the forefront in order to make sure that every child has every right.
“This year has shown more than ever how crises disrupt children´s lives, no matter which country they live in”, reads the joint statement by the EU High Representative Josep Borrell and the European Commission to mark this day. “The Coronavirus pandemic and its socio-economic consequences are having a serious and potentially long-term impact on children’s learning, well-being, development and protection”.
On 23 September, the EU and UNICEF sent out a joint SOS from the heart of the European Quarter in Brussels to act and safeguard the future of our children. EU High Representative Josep Borrell, together with Commissioner Dubravka Šuica and UNICEF Director Sandie Blanchet, inaugurated the #Backpack2School installation, consisting of 200 blue backpacks that formed a huge SOS sign in Schuman Square.
“Children risk falling behind in their education, falling into poverty and becoming victims of violence, abuse and neglect. Many children are struggling with limited or unequal access to services and care. The pandemic has shone a light on deep inequalities that persist and exposed serious gaps in child protection systems all over the world”, remarks the EU joint statement on World Children´s Day.
A new UNICEF study released yesterday warns that “the impact of the pandemic will affect children’s lives for years to come, even if a breakthrough vaccine becomes available soon”, and urges “the world to take bold and unprecedented steps to reimagine a better future for children”.
The data presented in the report, ‘Averting a Lost COVID Generation: A Six Point Plan to Respond, Recover and Reimagine a Post-Pandemic World for Every Child’, provides a dramatic picture of the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has compromised the future of new generations.
How has COVID-19 impacted children? * The number of children living in multidimensional poverty – without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water - is estimated to have soared to a 15% increase during the pandemic, an additional 150 million children by mid-2020. * As of November 2020, 11% of the 25.7 million of COVID-19 infections in 87 countries are among children and adolescents under 20 years old * Around 2 million additional child deaths under age 5 and 200,000 additional stillbirths could occur over a 12-month period with worst-case interruptions to services and rising malnutrition. * An additional 6 to 7 million children under age 5 may suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, a 14% rise that may translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. * At their peak, school closures due to COVID-19 affected almost 90% of students around the world. Uneven access to digital learning resources and parental support are amplifying the digital divide and inequalities among young people. * Approximately 70% of mental health services for children and adolescents are disrupted. Because most mental health conditions develop during adolescence, young people especially are at risk.
Finally, UNICEF calls on the world´s governments to follow a ‘Six Point Plan to Protect our Children’ including a series of urgent actions to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on the youth.
A year after we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989), the EU keeps working hard to step up the protection of children´s rights.
In response to the increased number of reported online child sexual abuse cases during the pandemic, the EU adopted in July the ‘EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse’. Moreover, the ‘EU Strategy on the rights of the child’, to be adopted in spring 2021, “will address challenges that emerged from the pandemic, propose actions to strengthen child participation, protection and promotion of the rights of the child at all levels in this new changing world”.
Besides, under the newly adopted ‘EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024’, the EU funds a myriad of actions and initiatives to promote, protect and fulfil all rights of all children worldwide.