An estimated 1.1 million children globally experienced the death of a primary caregiver as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, finds a study published by The Lancet Medical Journal in July of 2021.

As the majority of COVID-19 deaths occur in older populations, most of the world’s attention has been focused on adults. However, as this new study in The Lancet points out, the tragic result of the number of COVID-related deaths is that many children have lost their parents, grandparents or primary caregivers.

Around the world, since March 2021 a total of 1.5 million children lost either a parent, a grandparent who helped care for them or some other relative responsible for their care. Of these children, over a million were orphaned of their parents.

The countries with the highest number of children who lost their caregiver were Mexico (about 141,100), Brazil (about 130,300), India (about 119,200), the United States (about 113,700), Peru (about 98,900), South Africa (about 94,600), Iran (about 41,000), Colombia (about 33,300) and Russia (about 29,700).

The team who completed the study included researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USAID, the World Bank and University College London. They counted deaths in 21 countries that accounted for more than 76% of all COVID-19 cases. “For every two COVID-19 deaths worldwide, one child is left behind to face the death of a parent or caregiver,” said CDC’s Susan Hillis, who led the study. “The number of COVID-19 orphans will increase as the pandemic progresses.” Study co-author Lucie Cluver of Oxford University added, “We need to respond fast because every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to COVID-19.”

This report says that a conservative estimate is that over 4 million more children may suffer the death of parents and caregivers, through COVID-19, in the coming years.

“We cannot allow any more victims, even if indirect, of this pandemic,” said Bidisha Pillai, global policy, advocacy & campaigns director for Save the Children. “If we do not protect this generation, they run the risk of being left behind. As children lose one or even two parents, families are often pushed further into poverty, which can mean children will drop out of school and work, to help with the family income. These children will not return to school, and will likely be trapped in a cycle of poverty.”

Pillai added, “Without caregivers, children are particularly vulnerable. The pandemic undermined the education of hundreds of millions of children, and the loss of school days exposed girls, boys and adolescents to the risk of child labor, early marriage and pregnancy, and permanently dropping out of school.

Locally, Amy Frame, executive director of the Perry County Children Services Board, states that their agency can provide respite care in a foster home for 14 days. However, the number of foster homes available is limited and the need for additional foster families is felt across the United States.

How can you help? Visit CDC.gov and WHO.int for suggestions on helping the worldwide efforts. Read the full report at ‘Children: The Hidden Pandemic 2021 – A joint report of Covid-19 associated orphanhood and a strategy for action’ at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/orphanhood-report.pdf.

Locally, you can help by getting vaccinated and encouraging others to do the same, wearing your mask in public and remembering to practice social distancing. Refrain from attending “super spreader” events where there will be large numbers of people.

Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Contact Children’s Services at 740-342-3836 for more information.

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you safe where you live, work and play. Contact us at 740-342-5179, visit us at 409 Lincoln Park Drive, New Lexington, or go to our webpage at Perrycountyhealth.info and follow us on Facebook.

COVID-19 vaccination is available at the Health Department on a walk-in basis from 7:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., or you can come in later by appointment. Remember, Perry County Transit will provide FREE transportation for anyone coming to get the COVID vaccine.

Deborah Raney is the director of health education at the Perry County Health Department and is a weekly contributor to the Perry County Tribune.

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