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More than 5.2 Million Children Affected by Global Surges in COVID-Associated Orphanhood and Caregiver Death: New Evidence for National Responses
24 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2021More...
Background: In the past six months, proliferation of new variants, updated mortality data, and vaccine access disparities have increased estimates of children experiencing COVID-19-associated orphanhood. To inform responses, we modelled increases in numbers of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver death; and cumulative orphanhood age-group distribution and circumstance (maternal/paternal).
Methods: We used updated excess mortality and fertility data to model increases in minimum estimates of COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver deaths between May 1 — October 31, 2021, for 21 countries. Using yearly fertility contributions, we grouped children by age (0-4, 5-9, 10-17), maternal/paternal orphanhood, and modelled global and regional extrapolations.
Findings: The number of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver death increased 90% from April 30 to October 31, 2021: from 2,700,000 [95% CrI 1,976,000-2,987,000] to 5,200,000 [95% CrI 3,751,000-5,826,000]. From April 30, 2020 - October 31, 2021, 490,000 [95% CrI 321,400-573,400] children ages 0-4, 737,000 [95% CrI 485,700-865,800] children 5-9, and 2,144,000 [95% CrI 1,418,800-2,553,900] children 10-17 experienced COVID-associated parental death. In each age-group/region, paternal orphanhood prevalence exceeded maternal orphanhood for children 0-4, 11.5% vs. 3.1%, children 5-9, 17.1% vs. 4.8%, and children 10-17, 48% vs. 15.6% respectively.
Interpretation: Our findings show that numbers of children affected by COVID-associated orphanhood increased by 90% in 6 months compared to the first 14 months of the pandemic with 5.0 million COVID-19 deaths and 5.2 million children having lost a parent or caregiver over the entire 20-month period. We provide data on children’s ages and circumstances, to support response planning for children globally.
Funding Information: UK Research and Innovation (Global Challenges Research Fund (GCR), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council), Oak Foundation, UK National Institute for Health Research, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Imperial College.
Declaration of Interests: Dr. Donnelly reports grants from UK Medical Research Council and grants from NIHR during the conduct of the study. Dr. Cluver reports grants from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund, during the conduct of the study. All other authors report nothing to disclose.
Keywords: COVID-19, orphans, vulnerable children, pandemic, caregiver death
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