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Children at higher risk of death, abuse due to pandemic, says Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, April 16, 2020 warned that children are at a higher risk of death, abuse and malnutrition during the coronavirus pandemic.

António Guterres
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. Photo credit: UN /Mark Garten

“With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020″ compared to a pre-pandemic scenario, Guterres said in a statement.

He said sick children are less able to access healthcare services as they become overwhelmed, while polio vaccination and measles immunisation campaigns have been largely suspended.

“With children out of school, their communities in lockdown and a global recession biting deeper, family stress levels are rising,” he said.

“Children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse.”

He urged social media companies to protect children as they increasingly face abuse and exploitation online.

The UN chief said that with nearly half of the world’s school children relying on school for meals and most out of school, many are at risk of malnutrition and stunting.

In launching a UN report on the impact of the pandemic on children, he urged world leaders and donors to prioritise education, provide funding to low-income families and minimise disruptions to social and health-care services for children.

“We must also prioritise the most vulnerable – children in conflict situations, child refugees and displaced persons, children living with disabilities,” Guterres said.

He said there was an “alarming pattern” of the crisis hitting “the poorest and most vulnerable” hardest.

Guterres also recently warned of a global surge in domestic violence and that the pandemic was undoing gender equality gains.

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