One child is orphaned every 12 seconds due to a novel coronavirus (COVID-19)-associated death, according to new data from the World Bank.
The world has been closely tracking the death toll related to the virus, with official mortality counts now reaching over 4 million people, largely concentrated among adults. The children left behind have been practically invisible, the World Bank has said.
The bank’s estimates of the toll on children left behind, just released in the Lancet, are that for every 2 people who die of COVID-19, one child is left orphaned, facing the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver who had been living in their home.
By the end of June 2021, because of COVID-19, the bank’s estimates show that nearly 2 million children aged under 18 years have lost a mother, father, and/or grandparent caregiver who lived in their household.
The economic, developmental, and psychological impacts on these children will reverberate across generations, a tragic legacy of COVID-19 mortality.
To examine this pressing issue, the World Bank formed a Global Reference Group on Children Affected by COVID-19: Joint Estimates and Action through a collective of like-minded academics, practitioners from global organisations, and civil society groups.
“We used mortality and fertility data to model minimum estimates and rates of COVID-19-associated deaths of primary or secondary caregivers for children younger than 18 years in 21 countries,” the bank said, “We then extrapolated these estimates to arrive at global projections.”
It also noted that, during the pandemic’s first 14 months, its minimum estimates show over 1 million children experienced death of a primary caregivers, including parents or custodial grandparents.
Countries with primary caregiver death rates of at least one per 1,000 children included: Peru (10.2 per 1,000 children); South Africa (5.1); Mexico (3.5); Brazil (2.4); Colombia (2.3); Iran (1.7); the US (1.5); Argentina (1.1); and Russia (1.0).
In addition, over this same time frame, another half a million lost a grandparent caregiver living in their own home.
At this rate, one child is orphaned every 12 seconds due to a COVID-19-associated death, and the toll is growing.
Moreover, the bank’s most recent estimates reveal that for every two adults that die from COVID-19, one child is left without a familial caregiver.
For those interested in tracking country specific estimates, the World Bank’s team members at Imperial College in the UK have developed a tool that provides country specific orphanhood estimates. This is in addition to interactive visualisations of children affected, updated through links to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data.