Study reveals scale of children orphaned by COVID-19

Little girl with paper family in hands

An estimated 1.5 million children worldwide have been orphaned because of the pandemic according to a new study funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

This preliminary finding is a vital contribution to our understanding of the magnitude of the pandemic and will support efforts to help those most effected by COVID-19.

Revealing a hidden pandemic

Approximately every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to COVID-19, yet until now no major study has investigated the magnitude of the hidden pandemic of orphanhood.

Now, urgent investments can be directed to address this global crisis and to support children who have lost their parents and caregivers.

The study, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), outlines key strategies to prevent, prepare and protect against the loss of primary caregivers as a result of COVID-19 that will act as important complimentary pillars of the global COVID-19 response.

An important global effort

GCRF supports research and innovation to find sustainable, long-term solutions to global challenges that are destroying lives worldwide.

A crucial part of this is bringing researchers and experts from the UK and internationally together to directly address the negative impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities.

To address an issue that is affecting children in every nation, this study has brought together leading researchers from institutions including:

  • Oxford University
  • the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • the University of Cape Town South Africa
  • Imperial College
  • UCL
  • Harvard University.

Ongoing research and innovation

By expanding the worldwide pandemic response to include orphaned children, the study will create new momentum among the research and innovation community.

The global attention on children bereaved by the pandemic resulting from this study will be used to mobilise resources and implement sustainable support for bereaved youth around the world.

This study was funded by:

  • UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund Accelerator Hub
  • the Medical Research Council
  • the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • UK National Institute for Health Research
  • Imperial College COVID-19 Research Fund
  • the US National Institutes of Health.

Study author Professor Lucie Cluver, Oxford University and the University of Cape Town South Africa, said:

We have strong evidence from HIV and Ebola to guide solutions.

We need to support extended families or foster families to care for children, with cost-effective economic strengthening, parenting programs, and school access.

We need to vaccinate caregivers of children, especially grandparent caregivers. And we need to respond fast because every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to COVID.

The UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub allowed us to move swiftly in this global crisis. It shows the value that comes from supporting UK research to meet urgent global challenges.

Read the full report.

Top image:  Credit: ronstik / Getty Images

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