Why Covid means children’s health must be at the center of all policies

Despite international commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), no country is doing enough to protect the health and well-being of children. Children are suffering from the adverse effects of the climate crisis; inequalities and poverty; disease and malnutrition; inadequate housing, social protection and education; and harmful business marketing.

These difficulties have been aggravated by the Covid-19. Children have faced disruption to education, essential services and protection. Mental illness, a growing concern among children before the pandemic, has been exacerbated by the isolation, uncertainty and loss that many children face. Domestic violence has increased, placing many children in dangerous situations.

the Lancet, the British medical journal, has reported disruptions in food systems, interrupted humanitarian responses, strained health systems and an increased risk of child malnutrition. A World Health Organization investigation found disruptions in routine immunization, putting children’s health at risk. Schools have been closed for long periods. The effects on children’s health and well-being are likely to last for decades, unless governments can proactively mitigate the damage.

WHO-Unicef-Lancet Commission report, A future for the world’s children? (February 2020), described the great challenges facing children and adolescents today. The committee called for a global movement to tackle these threats and put the needs of children at the heart of all policies. The pandemic has made this appeal all the more urgent.

The Children in All Policies 2030 (CAP-2030) advocacy group aims to implement the commission’s recommendations, promoting evidence-based, practical and creative solutions, and creating dedicated networks for children’s health. CAP-2030 has partnered with organizations in nine countries to implement innovative programs tailored to each context. A comprehensive response is also needed to address cross-border challenges, such as climate change and business marketing.

The pandemic has shown that many countries have underfunded public health, social safety nets and preventive medical infrastructure, including measures for children. We must tackle the burden of children’s ill health and unequal access to healthy environments and preventive and curative care. Early interventions in childhood produce profound benefits that extend into adulthood. However, a Unicef ​​report found that high-income countries only allocate 2% of their Covid fiscal stimulus to child support.

CAP-2030 strives to support and equip governments and others to find solutions tailored to their specific contexts.

Satkhira in Bangladesh after Cyclone Amphan © NurPhoto via Getty Images

In Senegal, the Institute of Social Paediatrics will lead an initiative on the “first 1000 days” of a child’s life, advocating for resources to protect and promote health during this sensitive time, and sensitizing families and families. communities.

In Ghana, the Center for Child Learning and Development will mobilize stakeholders to place children at the center of the country’s pursuit of the SDGs.

Likewise, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements will lead a program of work on children’s health, housing and social protection, ensuring rights for families supported by informal workers.

Teacher in Indian state of Maharashtra hosts outdoor lesson for students who can't join online classes

A teacher in the Indian state of Maharashtra gives an outdoor class to students who cannot join online classes © AFP via Getty Images

But it is the climate crisis that poses the greatest threat to the health and well-being of children. Uncontrolled carbon pollution threatens to make many parts of the world uninhabitable during the lifetime of today’s children, and air pollution is already having serious repercussions on their health, increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. acute.

And it is children who have led the way in advocating for action to address the climate emergency. The School Strike for Climate movement has mobilized millions of people around the world, highlighting the need for children’s voices to be heard and implemented. CAP-2030 will work to amplify children’s voices on this issue.

Another major risk to children’s health is harmful marketing. Children are frequently the target of abusive marketing campaigns by companies promoting unhealthy foods and beverages, online gambling, alcohol and tobacco, products that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other noncommunicable diseases. The negative impacts of marketing campaigns on children’s mental health also require more attention. The constant images of idealized body types and inaccessible lifestyles can have dangerous effects on the well-being of children.

CAP-2030 strives to define the nature of the emerging threat of harmful business marketing and to support regulation to protect children.

All of these challenges require a global response rooted in local needs and cultures – and governments must work together, with communities, families and children, to invest in future generations.

Multiple summits are taking place this year – platforms for global cooperation that must take into account the plight of children and future generations.

For example, at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth summit in December, meaningful actions must be agreed to end child malnutrition. The voice of children must be heard at the COP26 climate conference in November. Concrete plans for achieving universal quality education are to be made at the World Education Summit later this month. These opportunities cannot be missed if the SDGs are to be achieved.

The health and well-being of the world’s children – the future of our common effort on this planet – depends on the place of children at the center of all policies.

Helen Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999-2008. She was previously the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program. She is co-chair of Children in All Policies 2030.

Awa Marie Coll-Seck is Minister of State of Senegal and President of the National Committee of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. She is co-chair of Children in All Policies 2030.

Sarah Dalglish is a public health researcher and executive director of Children in All Policies 2030.

Bethany Jennings is a sociologist and consultant for Children in All Policies 2030.


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