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Coronavirus measures ‘disastrous’ for children

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KT/Tep Sony

THE HAGUE (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic will have a “disastrous” impact on children’s rights worldwide, making them more vulnerable to forced labour and underage marriage, a rights group said Tuesday.

The economic shock from lockdowns would leave governments short of money for children’s health and education, Dutch NGO KidsRights said as it launched its annual survey.

“This crisis turns back the clock on years of progress made on the wellbeing of children,” said Marc Dullaert, founder and chairman of KidsRights.

Millions of children worldwide have been affected by school closures due to strict measures imposed by countries to halt the spread of the virus.

While children seemed to be relatively unaffected by the disease physically, “not only the economic consequences, but also the measures taken by governments… have a disastrous impact on many children”, said KidsRights.

Children were more vulnerable to child labour, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, while millions might fall into extreme poverty because of the coronavirus outbreak, the NGO said.

There was also an “astonishing” rise in domestic violence during lockdowns that was “especially devastating for girls”, it added.

The suspension of vaccination campaigns for children increased the risk of infant mortality, while hundreds of millions of children who normally relied on school meals were being left with no reliable source of daily nutrition.

The results of this year’s survey don’t take into account the effect of coronavirus. They will be monitored in future years, KidsRights said.

Iceland, Switzerland and Finland were named as the best for protecting the rights of children in the 2020 survey, while Chad, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone were the worst.

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