The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the stay-at-home policies adopted by governments across the world to check the spread of the COVID-19 scourge are threatening the mental health of 332 million children in many countries.
In a report released on Thursday, UNICEF said the affected children had been caged at home for at least nine months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the agency, 139 million children globally have lived under required nationwide stay-at-home orders since March 11, 2020 when COVID-19 was classified as a pandemic.
This, it said, means that they are required to stay at home with few exceptions, and they include children living in Nigeria, Paraguay and Peru.
“The remaining 193 million have lived under recommended nationwide stay-at-home policies for the same amount of time,” UNICEF said.
The agency Executive Director, Ms. Henrietta Fore, said the lockdown measures had left many children “feeling afraid, lonely, anxious and concerned about their future.”
She said: “With nationwide lockdowns and pandemic-related movement restrictions, it has been a long year for all of us, but especially for children.
“When, day after day, you are away from your friends and distant loved ones, and perhaps even stuck at home with an abuser, the impact is significant.
“We must emerge from this pandemic with a better approach to child and adolescent mental health, and that starts by giving the issue the attention it deserves.”
UNICEF said children and young people were already facing mental health risks before the pandemic started.
It added that half of all mental disorders develop before age 15, and 75 percent by early adulthood.
According to the UN agency, majority of the 800,000 people who die by suicide every year are young people.
It stated that self-harm was the third leading cause of death among people age 15 to 19, with higher rates among adolescent girls.
“It is estimated that globally one in four children live with a parent who has a mental disorder.
“For children experiencing violence, neglect or abuse at home, lockdowns have left many stranded with abusers and without the support of teachers, extended families and communities.
Children in vulnerable population groups, such as those living and working on the streets, children with disabilities, and children living in conflict settings, risk having their mental health needs to be overlooked entirely,” the report said.
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