COVID-19: Children in Indonesia at risk of lifelong consequences

UNICEF releases new position brief outlining the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and recommendations to help mitigate their effects.

12 May 2020
indo children
UNICEF/2015/Josh Estey

JAKARTA, 11 May 2020 – Without urgent action, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 will have lifelong consequences for the safety, well-being and future of children in Indonesia, UNICEF said today in a new position brief outlining the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and new recommendations to help mitigate their effects.

The position brief, COVID-19 and Children in Indonesia: An Agenda for Action to address Socio-Economic Challengesfinds evidence that the virus is already causing widespread income insecurity for families across the country, many of whom are not covered by social protection programmes which mostly target the extreme poor.

The sudden loss of jobs and family income could drive millions of children into poverty, leading to worse outcomes in nutrition, education and child protection while also exacerbating existing inequalities related to gender, income and vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities.

“Even after the pandemic is over, children throughout Indonesia will continue to feel its impact for years to come,” said UNICEF Representative Debora Comini. “Unless we act now to counter the socio-economic effects of the pandemic, this health crisis will turn into a much broader crisis that could halt or potentially reverse the years of hard-earned progress made for children in this country.”

The brief notes that even before the pandemic, Indonesia faced a triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients, and overweight among children under five – which will likely worsen as families lose income and have limited access to healthy food items. Paradoxically, this could result in both an increase in child stunting and an elevated prevalence of obesity due to increased intake of ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat.

With nearly 60 million children out of school in Indonesia because of COVID-19, online distance learning remains a challenge for many, according to the brief. Missing long periods of learning is likely to prevent many students from meeting grade level knowledge and skill expectations, which could put Indonesia’s social and economic development at risk in the long run.

The brief warns that lockdown measures heighten the potential for increased violence, abuse and neglect associated with childcare at home and in institutions. Existing risk factors including high rates of violence against children, tolerance of domestic violence and child marriage combined with increased levels of stress due to the circumstances created by the pandemic could lead to spikes in reported violence against children at home.

To prevent the pandemic from causing lasting damage to Indonesian society, the position brief provides recommendations for both the national and subnational governments, which include:

  1. Support families to cover their needs and care for their children: Rapidly expand the coverage and benefits of social protection to include all families affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.
  2. Support families to meet their children’s nutritional needs: Disseminate guidelines and tools for continuing essential nutrition services that target adolescents, women of reproductive age, pregnant and lactating mothers and children under-five, such as growth monitoring and promotion, micronutrient supplementation, maternal dietary counselling, infant and young child feeding counselling, distribution of high-energy biscuits, and screening and treatment for severe wasting.
  3. Keep children learning: Scale up home learning options to include no-tech and low-tech solutions, monitor student learning and participation through online platforms, focus on a “less is more” targeted-learning approach by teaching the most important skill sets with the limited resources, and provide teachers with extra support and guidance on distance teaching.
  4. Protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse: Provide mental health and psychosocial support to vulnerable children and develop strategies to mitigate the risk of gender-based violence and violence against children including mapping of services, referral guidelines, expanding reporting and response mechanisms and ensuring social welfare workers have access to protective equipment to enable service delivery and case management for the most vulnerable. 
  5. Public finance for children: Ensure that funding cuts and reprioritization of government budgets to respond to the pandemic do not disrupt regular services for children in other sectors such as education and social welfare services.

To download the position brief, please visit this link

Media contacts

Kinanti Pinta Karana
UNICEF Indonesia
Tel: +62 8158805842

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