Series editor, Lori Lake, of the Children’s Institute, said that as health-care services prepared for the first wave, children's needs were sidelined. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Series editor, Lori Lake, of the Children’s Institute, said that as health-care services prepared for the first wave, children's needs were sidelined. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Children impacted by effects of Covid-19 pandemic

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

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Cape Town - Even though children didn’t get infected by Covid-19 in large numbers, it does not mean they are not impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

This was the opinion of experts during the launch of the Children and Covid-19 Advocacy Briefs, on Tuesday.

This series of advocacy briefs developed by UCT’s Children’s Institute with the Children’s Hospital Trust and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, assess the impact of the pandemic on children and responses to it.

Series editor, Lori Lake, of the Children’s Institute, said: “In the first year of the pandemic, there were over 284 000 cases of Covid-19 in the Western Cape and 12 300 of those were children. Out of the 12 300, 1 500 were admitted to hospital and 59 children died of Covid-19.

“Yet thousands more children have been affected by the illness and death of family members, with over one million children around the world estimated to have lost a primary caregiver from March 2020 to April 2021.”

As health-care services prepared for the first wave, children's needs were sidelined with resources diverted from paediatrics to adult Covid-19 care, said Lake.

“Paediatric and adolescent hospital beds were allocated to adult Covid-19 care, elective surgeries cancelled and many children with disabilities did not have access to care.

“Primary health-care visits in children under five dropped by 23% from 2019 to 2020 leading to gaps in testing and treatment of HIV, TB and malnutrition in ways that will impact on children’s health for years to come,” said Lake.

Lake said in-hospital mortality rates of children increased during the pandemic.

“Whilst assertions by care experts during the initial start of the pandemic that children were spared the brunt of Covid-19 in terms of infections compared to adults, overlooked (has been) the “disastrous collateral damage wreaked by the pandemic on many facets of children’s lives,”’ said co-editor, Professor Maylene Shung-King of the School of Public Health at UCT.

“In this series of briefs, we specifically draw on the case example of the Western Cape because even in this relatively well-resourced province, our initial responses in protecting children were unfortunately woefully inadequate and we hope that the lessons learnt from our work will help inform our future responses.”

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