The Silent victims of the Pandemic: Children and adolescents during the COVID-19
“Children are not the ‘faces’ of this pandemic. But they risk being among its most-affected victims.” – World Health Organization
COVID-19: The Problem Statement
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a pandemic on the 11th of March 2020. Besides affecting global public health, outbreaks like this have long-standing psychosocial offshoots. Travel has been widely restricted, economies slashed, jobs lost, and billions quarantined at their homes in an attempt to control the outbreak. Awareness about the disease, its symptoms and the three-pronged strategy to contain it (social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene) have been given prime importance by the WHO and consequently by all the nations of the world. WHO had declared, "This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, and we have never before seen such a large-scale infectious outbreak!" In fact, within months of its emergence, the virus took the world to its knees, affected human lives, society, and livelihood alike. With more than seven million affected and nearly five lakhs succumbing to the infection, so far, the numbers are rising.
The need to protect citizens drove the Governments to take extreme draconian measures to contain the spread of the virus. Governments ordered residents to stay in a 'lockdown' amidst this public health emergency. The complete and historical four-phased lockdown enforced in India encompassed closure of public and social places, schools and educational institutions, religious places, and others. This created mass panic and anxiety in people residing all over, already affected by the fear and uncertainty the pandemic posed. Though every sector has faced unique challenges due to this unprecedented situation, certain populations are exceedingly vulnerable. In these uncertain times, special groups like children, adolescents, the elderly, and people with co-morbidities (diabetes, hypertension, and others) are known to be affected more than the general population. Alongside this, children were largely affected by the burden of anxiety passing from parents and media onto them. Though the number of children infected by the virus is seemingly lower than other age groups, the psychological and social impact on children is known to be higher and will probably have long term consequences. Increased anxiety, the uncertainty of the pandemic situation, lack of peer support, and chronic trauma can all lead to detrimental psychosocial issues for the children and adolescents.