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Save the Children conducts largest global survey on the impact of COVID-19

Children from poorest households suffer greatest family income loss, miss out most on education and face highest risk of violence at home
10 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the education of children from poorer backgrounds and is widening the gap between rich and poor and boys and girls, a new global survey by Save the Children revealed today. 

In the six months since the pandemic was announced, the most vulnerable children have disproportionately missed out on access to education, healthcare, food, and suffered the greatest protection risks.  

The global survey revealed:  

  • 93% of households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services;

  • Two thirds of the children had no contact with teachers at all, during lockdown; eight in ten children believed they had learned little or nothing since schools closed; and

  • Violence at home doubled: during school closures, the reported rate was 17% compared to 8% when the child was attending school in person.

The findings were launched today in the report Protect A Generation, based on the largest ever global survey of its kind since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared six months ago. Some 25,000 children and caregivers shared their experiences, fears and hopes during this unprecedented crisis.  

COVID-19 has widened inequalities along wealth and gender lines, the survey found, with poorer households more likely to suffer income losses (82%) than those not classified as poor (70%). 

When it comes to health, the survey showed the same concerning divide along wealth lines. Nine in ten households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services. 

Less than 1% of the poorer children interviewed had access to internet for distance learning. Among households that classified themselves as non-poor, it was 19%.  

In the Pacific, like much of the world, the pandemic has had a devasting economic impact. 77% of parents or caregivers surveyed in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea said they had trouble paying for food. While GDP was projected to grow between 3 and 4% across the region in 2020, instead it has contracted – by 2% in Papua New Guinea and 6% in Solomon Islands.

Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said: “COVID-19 is making inequality worse. The poor have become poorer. Children are missing out on accessing even basic health services. The digital divide means kids are losing their education. 

“Governments must prioritise the rights and needs of the most deprived and marginalised children as they prepare to rebuild. For Australia, that means supporting its neighbours.

“While Australia has responded to the global COVID-19 crisis by deploying health experts, providing medical supplies and financial support to Pacific Islands governments, the scale of the crisis has not been matched by the type of vision and action needed.

“Even though there is so much happening at home, we must look beyond our shores. Our Pacific neighbours are in crisis. Not only would strong intervention by Australia protect our own interests, but it will literally save lives and livelihoods among our neighbours.

“COVID-19 doesn’t respect borders or boundaries, and it won’t be over for anyone until it’s over for everyone.”

Children were also asked what worried them most about the COVID-19 pandemic, eliciting a broad range of concerns in the Solomon Islands.

A 12-year-old boy said: “If the pandemic continues my mum and dad might lose their jobs and my family will have big financial crisis”. An 11-year-old girl said “death” worried her most, and a boy, 16, said he was worried about “not achieving my dreams”. A 17-year-old girl said she was most worried about “the economy recovering”.

Children who fall behind in their education run a greater risk of dropping out completely and falling victim to child labour, child marriage and other forms of exploitation. Save the Children estimates that this pandemic has caused the largest education emergency in history, with some 9.7 million children not returning to school this year

The Save the Children survey also found that: 

  • More than 8 in 10 (83%) children reported an increase in negative feelings
  • 63% of girls said they are doing more chores around the house and more than half (52%) reported spending more time caring for siblings. For boys it was 43% and 42% respectively
  • 19% of households in which children reported violence had lost more than half of their household income due to COVID-19

Save the Children is urging governments to make sure children out of school have access to quality distance learning materials, that catch up classes are offered to children who have fallen behind and that all children have equal access to learning after schools reopen.   

To prevent shocks from future pandemics, the child rights organisation is calling on governments to build social safety nets and strong health and nutrition systems, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised households. 


For media inquiries text/call Angus Smith 0488 330 882 or Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.

To support Save the Children’s COVID-19 Crisis Appeal, click here

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