Preventing a lost decade
Urgent action to reverse the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children and young people
Almost two years into the pandemic, the widespread impact of COVID-19 continues to deepen, increasing poverty and entrenching inequality. While some countries are recovering and rebuilding in a ‘new normal’, for many, COVID-19 remains a crisis. The human rights of all children are under threat to a degree that has not been seen in more than a generation.
The global response so far has been deeply unequal and inadequate. The world now stands at a crossroads. The actions we take now will determine the well-being and rights of children for years to come.
As we commemorate UNICEF’s 75th year, this report lays out the work in front of us by taking stock of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on children and the road to respond and recover to reimagine the future for every child.
- COVID-19 is the biggest crisis for children in UNICEF's 75-year history, reversing hard-won progress. Without action, the world faces a lost decade for children, leaving the Sustainable Development Goals an impossible dream.
- In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 per cent increase since 2019.
- In a best-case scenario based on past trends, it will take seven to eight years to recover and return to pre-COVID child poverty levels.
- The deep disparity in recovery from the pandemic is widening the gap between richer and poorer countries. While richer countries are recovering, poorer countries are saddled with debt and development gains are falling behind. The poverty rate continues to rise in low income countries and least developed countries.
- For the best-case scenario to become a reality, we must take action now.
- Even before the pandemic, around 1 billion children worldwide, and half of all children in developing countries, suffered at least one severe deprivation, without access to minimum levels of education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water.
- The world stands at a crossroads. We must decide to either protect and expand the gains made for child rights over years, or suffer the consequences of reversed progress and a lost decade for today’s children and young people, which will be felt by all of us, everywhere.
But there’s hope
- Far from feeling powerless in the face of challenge, today’s children and young people welcome change and challenges, forging ahead with resilience and courage. Rather than consigning themselves to an already determined future, they are taking action. Today’s young generation are more hopeful and confident that the world is becoming a better place.
- Today’s crises also present a unique window of opportunity for the world to reimagine itself – as a fair, safe, interdependent whole in which every child’s potential stands an equal chance of fulfillment.
- For 75 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading architect and advocate for child rights, whose work in delivering for every child, especially in times of crisis, is as critical today as ever.
- This is not a moment to be cautious. This is the time to work together and build a better future.
The world stands at a crossroads. Do we rally and unite to protect years of progress on child rights? Or do we allow the unequal recovery from COVID-19 to further marginalize the disadvantaged and increase inequality even more?
As we commemorate UNICEF’s 75th year, we will continue to strive to create a world where we open opportunities for every child. This is an ambitious undertaking that depends on new and strengthened partnerships with governments, civil society, our UN sister agencies and business. But together, we can build on the foundation of 75 years of results for children.
What must happen
- Make our collective future – our children - first in line for investment and last in line for cuts.
- This agenda for action is based on UNICEF’s 75 years of experience, research and practice and 75 years of listening to children and young people.
- To respond and recover and to reimagine the future for every child, UNICEF is calling for:
- Investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery
- Ending the pandemic and reversing the alarming rollback in child health and nutrition
- Building back stronger by ensuring quality education, protection and good mental health for every child
- Building resilience to better prevent, respond to, and protect children from crises