Coronavirus pandemic impacts parents and families around the globe
By Caroline Marshall, Senior Policy Advisor, Health – World Vision Canada.
Summer is usually a time for family fun – vacations, summer camps, barbeques and visits to friends and loved ones. But we all know COVID-19 has turned everything upside down. This year parents across Canada and around the world have been facing some very difficult choices. Any Canadian parent will tell you about the high wire balancing act between continuing to work while ensuring their children get the education and care they need. And now that struggle for work-life balance is harder than ever. COVID-19 lockdowns have also meant lost incomes and jobs for millions of parents and caregivers, both here at home and around the world. And the impact is greatest on low-income families everywhere.
Considering the depth of the crisis in Canada, it’s much easier for us to understand how devastating things must be for families already living on the edge of survival. Those living without a safety net in slums and villages in the world’s poorest places. The truth is that it’s worse than what most Canadians probably imagine. Millions of parents in these places who are losing their livelihoods are being forced to make choices that would horrify Canadian parents. Exposing their children to harmful and dangerous circumstances such as begging on the streets or marrying off their daughters for a bride price in order to be able to eat.
To better understand these secondary threats facing children and their families, World Vision conducted surveys in 24 countries across Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. We collected field-level data from 14,000 households in Asia, over 2,400 small business owners in Africa, and more than 360 Venezuelan migrants across Latin America.
Our findings confirm the alarming predictions of increased child hunger, violence, and poverty due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Based on the data collected from our assessments, we estimate the following:
- 85 million households across Asia have no or limited food stocks
- 110 million children are going hungry
- 8 million children have been pushed into child labour or begging
- 80% of Venezuelan migrants reported a drop in income
- 83% of Venezuelan migrants said that food was scarce, to the extent that every third child was going hungry. Based on the estimated number of Venezuelan migrants, that’s potentially over 1 million children.
These findings give further evidence to what has already been widely accepted – that the most vulnerable families and their children are hardest hit in such crises, and that those living in fragile countries already suffering from conflict, climate change, instability or displacement are suffering even more due to the impacts of COVID-19. Predicted drops in income, food security, and child protection due to COVID-19 have already begun, and if allowed to continue, they could lead to an increase in extreme poverty and hunger not seen for decades – what the World Food Programme has warned is a famine of ‘biblical’ proportions.
It’s critical that organizations and governments, including Canada, act to ensure that more devastation does not occur. We need to provide support for countries to develop more inclusive and resilient economic recovery plans that focus on the poor as different regions incrementally start re-opening or entering different phases of their COVID-19 response.
World Vision has launched a response beyond any scale we’ve ever attempted before in our 70-year history. We’re working in 70 different countries on COVID-19 response, child protection, livelihoods support, and food security and nutrition to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable.
Collaborating with faith actors is a key part of our response, because we recognize the vital role that faith plays in people’s lives. World Vision’s Empowered World View project model uses a faith-based approach to reach deep into people’s core beliefs, transforming their view of the world so they no longer feel hopeless or trapped in poverty, as so many are feeling due to COVID-19’s impacts. Empowered Worldview is the foundation for our Building Secure Livelihoods project model, which equips farmers to improve their incomes by learning improved agricultural and marketing techniques – one of our most important elements of the COVID-19 response.
COVID-19, especially the quarantine, is impacting everyone. We cannot know for certain how much each family is affected, but our staff are still on the ground helping communities however they can. For example, one girl in Myanmar snuck out to go begging because her father had sold his taxi to pay for medicine and food. World Vision helped him buy back his taxi so he could earn money and prevent his daughter from putting herself in harm’s way. We do all we can to protect children.
My family is lucky – we’ve all kept our jobs, and although my nephews are missing out on valuable time in school, they’re safe, well-fed, and supported by loving family and friends. We’ll likely never be faced with the kind of difficult choices that faced the father in Myanmar. But for many families, this security is not available to them – and it’s up to us to do whatever we can to support and protect them before more lives are lost needlessly or changed irreparably.