UNICEF and Save the Children Say COVID Make Children More Vulnerable to Poverty

AKP Phnom Penh, June 01, 2020 —

New analysis from Save the Children and UNICEF reveals that without urgent action, the number of children living in poor households across low- and middle-income countries could increase by 15 percent, to reach 672 million.

The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic could push up to 86 million more children into household poverty by the end of 2020, an increase of 15 percent, says the new analysis released today.

The analysis highlights that, without urgent action to protect families from the financial hardships caused by the pandemic, the total number of children living below the national poverty line in low- and middle-income countries could reach 672 million by year-end. Nearly two-thirds of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Before the pandemic, two-thirds of children worldwide did not have access to any form of social protection, making it impossible for families to withstand financial shocks when they hit and furthering the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty. Only 16 percent of children in Africa are covered by social protection.

Hundreds of millions of children remain multidimensionally poor – meaning they lack access to health care, education, proper nutrition, or adequate housing – often a reflection of inequitable investments by governments in social services.

To address and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on children in poor households, Save the Children and UNICEF call for rapid and large-scale expansion of social protection systems and programmes including cash transfers, school feeding and child benefits – all critical investments that address immediate financial needs and lay the foundation for countries to prepare for future shocks.

Governments must also invest in other forms of social protection, fiscal policies, employment and labour market interventions to support families. This includes expanding universal access to quality healthcare and other services; and investing in family friendly policies, such as paid leave and childcare.

According to the analysis, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Royal Government of Cambodia has already scaled up its social protection programme. A new COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme for ID Poor Households has been approved and is scheduled to launch during the second week of June 2020. Supported by UNICEF, European Union (EU), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and United Nations Development Fund, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Save the Children, and other partners, this programme aims to cover an estimate of 540,000 households living in poverty (ID Poor) or over 2.4 million individuals. The COVID-19 Cash Transfer is designed to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups of population, including the needs of children 0-5 years old, persons with disabilities, elderly and persons living with HIV/AIDS. The programme is a top up of the existing Cash Transfer Programme for the Poor Pregnant Women and Children (0-2 years old) and the Scholarship Programme for Children in Primary and Secondary Schools.

“The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented socio-economic crisis that is draining resources for families all over the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services. Without concerted action, families barely getting by could be pushed into poverty, and the poorest families could face levels of deprivation that have not been seen for decades.”

(Photo: Kratie Provincial Information Department)

By Heng Panha