The number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new UNICEF and Save the Children analysis published Thursday.
This is a 15 percent increase in the number of children living in deprivation in low- and middle-income countries, or an additional 150 million children since the pandemic hit earlier this year.
The multidimensional poverty analysis uses data on access to education, healthcare, housing, nutrition, sanitation and water from more than 70 countries.
It highlights that around 45 percent children were severely deprived of at least one of these critical needs in the countries analysed before the pandemic.
Although the analysis paints a dire picture, UNICEF warns the situation will likely worsen in the months to come. Save the Children and UNICEF are committed to continue to monitor this evolving situation and work with governments and civil society to confront it.
“COVID-19 and the lockdown measures imposed to prevent its spread have pushed millions of children deeper into poverty,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”
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The report notes that child poverty is much more than a monetary value. Although measures of monetary poverty such as household income are important, they provide only a partial view of the plight of children living in poverty.
‘We must act now’
To understand the full extent of child poverty, all potential deprivations must be analysed directly.
This also points to the need to implement multi-sectoral policies addressing health, education, nutrition, water and sanitation and housing deprivations to end multidimensional poverty.
Social protection, inclusive fiscal policies, investments in social services, and employment and labour market interventions to support families are critical to lifting children out of poverty and preventing further devastation.
This includes expanding access to quality healthcare and providing the tools and technology needed for children to continue their education remotely; and investing in family-friendly policies such as paid leave and child care.
“This pandemic has already caused the biggest global education emergency in history, and the increase in poverty will make it very hard for the most vulnerable children and their families to make up for the loss,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children.
“Children who lose out on education are more likely to be forced into child labour or early marriage and be trapped in a cycle of poverty for years to come. We cannot afford to let a whole generation of children become victims of this pandemic. National governments and the international community must step up to soften the blow.”
There are not only more children experiencing poverty than before, the poorest children are getting poorer as well, the report notes.
Some children may suffer one or more deprivations and others experience none at all, therefore the average number of deprivations suffered per child can be used to assess how poor children are.
Before the pandemic, the average number of severe deprivations per child was around 0.7. It is now estimated to have increased by 15 percent to around 0.85.
“We must act now to prevent additional children from being deprived in basic life needs like school, medicine, food, water and shelter,” said Fore.
"Governments must prioritise the most marginalised children and their families through rapid expansion of social protection systems including cash transfers and child benefits, remote learning opportunities, healthcare services and school feeding. Making these critical investments now can help countries to prepare for future shocks.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged governments on Thursday not to “throw away” stimulus funds by supporting fossil fuel industries that contribute to global warming.
Speaking at a virtual conference on climate change, Guterres noted that countries have “a choice of two paths” as they mobilise trillions of dollars of taxpayers' money for economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can either throw away money on the fossil fuels of the past. That is the road to more pollution. Or we can invest in the technologies of the future, renewable energy, nature-based solutions, sustainable transport and green technologies,” he said, reports AP.
“Only one of these paths is rational,” the UN chief noted.
Guterres noted that large investors are already pulling their money out of heavily polluting industries, especially coal.
“Without taxpayer subsidies they are bankrupt enterprises,” he said, claiming that building new renewable energy plants is already cheaper than continuing to operate almost two-fifths of the world’s existing coal-fired plants.
Several countries, including coal-reliant Germany, have recently agreed to phase out the use of coal for electricity because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide produced from burning it.
In the US, numerous coal-fired power plants have been shut in recent years since 2010 and none of the nation's energy companies are building a new one, despite US President Donald Trump's stated support for the coal industry.
Rethinking relations with nature
Guterres' appeal to governments to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies was echoed by actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped organise the Austrian World Summit in Vienna.
“When you hear that government plans to spend stimulus money bailing out fossil fuels, we must ask ourselves: if investors aren’t supporting those declining companies, why should taxpayers?” Schwarzenegger said by video link from Los Angeles. “Governments must realise what the smart money knows instinctively: don’t invest in the past.”
Efficient uses of money would include making buildings more energy-efficient and weatherproof, installing energy-efficiency appliances, cars using alternative fuels, and planting trees, he said.
Since leaving political office in 2011, the Austrian-American actor has devoted time to environmental causes. A Republican, he has sparred with President Trump over climate issues.
The meeting also heard a video appeal from Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, who called for the need to preserve the Congo rainforest from destruction.
“Use your voice to speak about the Congo rainforest, because millions of people heavily depend on its existence,” she said.
Jane Goodall, the pioneering conservationist, cited the pandemic as a warning for what can happen when humans treat the environment with disregard.
“To a large extent we brought this (pandemic) on ourselves by our disrespecting nature and disrespecting animals,” she said. “We’ve created conditions which make it easy for pathogens to jump from an animal to a person.”
“We need to rethink our relationship with the natural world,” Goodall added. “We need to get together to somehow develop a new green economy and perhaps we need to think of a new definition of what it means to be successful in this life.”
The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization says scientific disagreements over COVID-19 interventions — like masks and vaccines — shouldn’t be treated as “some kind of political football,” but acknowledged that “it isn’t easy for everyone to be on message all the time, reports AP.
Asked to respond to the open disagreements between U.S. President Donald Trump and the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the effectiveness of masks and when a coronavirus vaccine might be available, Dr. Michael Ryan said “it is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels."
“This is complicated stuff,” Ryan said at a press briefing on Thursday.
“What is important is that governments (and) scientific institutions step back, review the evidence and give us the most comprehensive, easy-to-understand...information so that people can take the appropriate action.”
He warned against turning scientific messaging into “some kind of political football.”
WHO has previously said it is possible there may be enough data from ongoing trials into coronavirus vaccines to know by the end of the year if one of the experimental shots is safe and effective enough to use globally.
On Wednesday, Trump predicted this could happen next month and that a mass vaccination campaign in the U.S. could start shortly afterward.
He called the U.S. CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield “confused” for projecting a longer timeline.
At least four people including three suspected rebels and a woman were killed in a gunbattle between anti-India rebels and government forces in Kashmir on Thursday, officials said.
The gunfight erupted shortly after scores of counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched an operation based on a tip about the presence of militants in a Srinagar neighborhood, Pankaj Singh, an Indian paramilitary spokesman, said, reports AP.
Singh said the fighting left three militants dead and a paramilitary officer wounded.
He said a local woman aged about 45 was also killed in the exchange of gunfire.
There were no other details immediately available about the civilian’s killing.
As the fighting raged, many residents marched near the site in solidarity with the rebels and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule over the region. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.
No casualties were immediately reported in the clashes.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Armed rebels have fought Indian rule since 1989, which New Delhi calls Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
One person was killed when the Hurricane Sally lumbered ashore near the Florida-Alabama line on Wednesday with 105 mph (165 kph) winds and rain measured in feet, not inches, swamping homes and forcing the rescue of hundreds as it pushed inland for what could be a slow and disastrous drenching across the Deep South.
The death happened in Orange Beach, Alabama, according to Mayor Tony Kennon, who also told The Associated Press that one person was missing, reports AP.
Kennon said he couldn't immediately release details.
Moving at just 3 mph (5 kph), or about as fast as a person can walk, the storm made landfall at 4:45 a.m. close to Gulf Shores, Alabama, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Pensacola, Florida.
It accelerated to a light jog as it battered the Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama, metropolitan areas encompassing nearly 1 million people.
Sally cast boats onto land or sank them at the dock, flattened palm trees, peeled away roofs, blew down signs and knocked out power to more than 540,000 homes and businesses. A replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Nina that had been docked at the Pensacola waterfront was missing, police said.
Sally tore loose a barge-mounted construction crane, which then smashed into the new Three Mile Bridge over Pensacola Bay, causing a section of the year-old span to collapse, authorities said. The storm also ripped away a large section of a fishing pier at Alabama’s Gulf State Park on the very day a ribbon-cutting had been scheduled following a $2.4 million renovation.
By the afternoon, authorities in Escambia County, which includes Pensacola, said at least 377 people had been rescued from flooded areas. More than 40 people trapped by high water were brought to safety within a single hour, including a family of four found in a tree, Sheriff David Morgan said.
Authorities in Pensacola said 200 National Guard members would arrive Thursday to help. Curfews were announced in Escambia County and in some coastal Alabama towns.
Sally turned some Pensacola streets into white-capped rivers early Wednesday. Sodden debris and flooded cars were left behind as the water receded.
By early afternoon, Sally had weakened into a tropical storm. It was downgraded to a depression late Wednesday night with 35 mph (55 kph) sustained winds. The National Weather Service said the system was still forecast to dump 4 inches (10 centimeters) to 8 inches (29 centimeters) of rain in southeast Alabama and central Georgia by Thursday night, with up to 1 foot (30.48 centimeters) in some spots.
At least eight waterways in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were expected to hit their major flood levels by Thursday. Some of the crests could break records, submerge bridges and flood some homes, the National Weather Service warned.
Morgan, the Escambia County sheriff, estimated thousands would need to flee rising waters in the coming days. Escambia officials urged residents to rely on text messages for contacting family and friends to keep cellphone service open for 911 calls.
“There are entire communities that we’re going to have to evacuate,” the sheriff said. “It's going to be a tremendous operation over the next several days.”
West of Pensacola, in Perdido Key, Florida, Joe Mirable arrived at his real estate business to find the two-story building shattered. Digging through the ruins, Mirable pointed out a binder labeled “Hurricane Action Plan.”
“I think the professionals got this one wrong,” he said before the wind blew away his hat.
More than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain was recorded near Naval Air Station Pensacola, and nearly 3 feet (1 meter) of water covered streets in downtown Pensacola, the National Weather Service reported.
“It’s not common that you start measuring rainfall in feet,” said forecaster David Eversole.
Sally was the second hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in less than three weeks and the latest to blow in during one of the busiest hurricane seasons ever. Forecasters have nearly run through the alphabet of storm names with 2 1/2 months still to go. At the start of the week, Sally was one of a record-tying five storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic basin.
Like the wildfires raging on the West Coast, the onslaught of hurricanes has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing slower, rainier, more powerful and more destructive storms.
An emergency crew rescued two people on Dauphin Island, Alabama, after the hurricane ripped the roof off their home and the rest of the house began to crumble. Mayor Jeff Collier said no one was injured.
In Orange Beach, Alabama, the wind blew out the walls in one corner of a condominium building, exposing at least five floors. At least 50 people were rescued from flooded homes and taken to shelters, Mayor Tony Kennon said.