80 million children in Indonesia face widespread impact from COVID-19 pandemic

New UNICEF report highlights the severe impact of the pandemic on children over the last year and proposes several actions towards a more child-focused response and recovery.

20 August 2021
A boy plays with toys
Dwi Rizky Saputra plays with toys from a recreational kit he received for children affected by COVID-19 at his home in Jombang, Indonesia, on 22 October 2020.

JAKARTA, 20 August 2021 – More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, 80 million children and adolescents in Indonesia are facing a widespread secondary impact on their learning, health, nutrition and economic security, according to a new UNICEF report.

The UNICEF report Towards a child-focused COVID-19 response and recovery: A Call to Action finds that the pandemic is disrupting the education of millions of students, limiting access to critical health, nutrition and protection services, and causing families to struggle to stay afloat financially. Existing inequalities have been exacerbated – particularly those related to gender, poverty and disability – which will have significant consequences on childhood development outcomes.

“Just over a year into the pandemic, children and young people across Indonesia are facing a challenging new normal,” said UNICEF Representative Debora Comini. “With poverty rising, the majority of schools closed and many essential services still unavailable, we must prioritize child-centred investments to promote an inclusive recovery and better prepare for the next crisis.”

According to the report, three out of four households in Indonesia have experienced a reduction in income during the pandemic, with urban families more significantly impacted. At the same time, almost one-quarter of households is experiencing rising costs, increasing the risk of food insecurity.

With more than half a million early childhood centres, schools and universities closed, the average time spent on distance learning has varied from only 2.2 to 3.5 hours per day around the country. School closures have also increased the risk of school dropout, putting out-of-school children at greater risk of child marriage and other harmful and exploitative practices.

Similarly, the disruption of daily routines has affected the mental and emotional well-being of young people. Nearly half of all households have reported child behavioural challenges, with children finding it hard to concentrate (45 per cent), becoming angrier (13 per cent) and finding it difficult to sleep (6.5 per cent).

The report finds that access to childhood and maternal health services has decreased across the country. The proportion of households accessing health facilities for immunization, birth control, antenatal care, childbirth and post-delivery services declined by seven per cent nationally and by almost 10 per cent in urban areas in 2020.

Access and adherence to safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene practices continues to be limited in high transmission risk areas, such as schools and health care facilities, putting children and vulnerable groups at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

While the government’s response to the pandemic have been pivotal in mitigating its impact on families and children, the report proposes several actions for a more child-focused COVID-19 response and recovery:

  1. Expand coverage and benefits of child-focused social protection programmes so they are accessible to all families in times of crisis.
  2. Safely reopen schools as soon as possible, enhance coverage and quality of digital learning, and prioritize universal access to the internet. The extent of learning loss must be also identified to inform catch-up learning programmes and campaigns.
  3. Resume essential health services, including immunization catch-up campaigns, while vaccinating the populations.
  4. Put in place protection measures that detect, prevent and respond to violence against children and other vulnerable groups and provide mental health and psychosocial support services for all children and caregivers.
  5. Strengthen an adaptive system for providing and monitoring nutrition services to avoid disruption of services during times of crises.
  6. Accelerate investments in sanitation and handwashing facilities and strengthen capacities to promote proper hand-washing practices in communities, households, schools and health facilities.

Media contacts

Kinanti Pinta Karana
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Indonesia
Tel: +62 8158805842

Additional resources

A girl shows her drawing
Towards a child-focused COVID-19 response and recovery


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