The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Big Number: 1.5 million children worldwide have lost a parent or primary caregiver due to covid-19

More than 1.5 million children worldwide have faced the death of one or both parents, custodial grandparent or other relative due to covid-19, according to research published in the Lancet. In the United States, more than 114,000 youths have lost their primary caregiver. Most often, the lost primary caregiver was a parent — that’s the case for 1 million of the 1.5 million affected children — and most often that parent was a father. The findings stem from the researchers’ analysis of mortality data from 21 countries that have accounted for 77 percent of covid-related deaths from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 through the end of this past April. Researchers said the number of young people who have lost their primary caregiver — which they described as “a tragic overlooked consequence of the millions of pandemic dead” — will continue to rise as the pandemic shows no sign of abating yet around the world. Evidence from previous epidemics (such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola and pneumonia) has shown that children like these who have lost a key caregiver face a greater risk for mental health problems, developmental delays, various chronic diseases, physical violence, family poverty and institutionalization. The research urges individuals, organizations and nations to expand pandemic responses to include caring for affected youths. “The hidden pandemic of orphanhood [or loss of a main caregiver] is a global emergency, and we can ill afford to wait until tomorrow to act,” one of the lead researchers said.

— Linda Searing

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