The head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has explained, that even though children have been spared many of the most serious effects of covid-19, they have suffered in other ways, hence the need to study the effects of covid-19 on children.
In collaboration with the heads of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during a press conference on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus summarized that since the start of the COVID pandemic, discerning its effects on children has been important.
“Nine months into the pandemic, many questions remain, but we are starting to have a clearer picture. We know that children and adolescents can be infected and can infect others”, he said.
“We know that this virus can kill children, but that children tend to have a milder infection and there are very few severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 among children and adolescents.”
The WHO data revealed that less than 10 per cent of reported cases and less than 0.2 per cent of covid-19 deaths are in people under the age of 20. But the factors that put children and adolescents at an increased risk should be investigated.
“Keeping children safe and at school is not a job for schools alone, or governments alone or families alone. It’s a job for all of us, working together,” added Mr. Tedros.
“With the right combination of measures, we can keep our kids safe and teach them that health and education are two of the most precious commodities in life,” he added.
There were also guidance laid out, for the reopening of schools. Considering the latest scientific evidence, the guidance gives reasonable advice for schools in areas with no cases, irregular cases, clusters of cases or community transmission. They were created with input from the Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Educational Institutions and COVID-19, founded by the three UN agencies in June.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, also emphasized the importance of school, for providing health, protection and – at times – nutrition services.
“The longer schools remain closed, the more damaging the consequences, especially for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds … therefore, supporting safe reopening of schools must be a priority for us all”, she said.
“When we deal with education, the decisions we make today will impact tomorrow’s world,” said the UNESCO Director-General.
But, with half the global student population still unable to return to schools, and almost a third of the world’s pupils unable to access remote learning, the situation is “nothing short of a global education emergency”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“We know that closing schools for prolonged periods of time can have devastating consequences for children,” she said.
“For the most marginalized, missing out on school – even if only for a few weeks – can lead to negative outcomes that last a lifetime,” warned Ms. Fore.
Governments are urged to reopen schools and concentrate on the requirements of children.
“Find innovative ways – including online, TV and radio – to keep children learning, no matter what”, stressed Ms. Fore.