A new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, says that 10.5 million children have lost a parent or caregiver as a result of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this statistic is almost double previous estimates.

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“When you have deaths of this magnitude, certainly without help you can weaken the fabric of a society in the future if you don’t take care of the children today,” Lead author of the study, Susan Hillis, a former CDC epidemiologist who is now at the University of Oxford, said in response to the truly “sobering” findings.


Hillis and her co-authors of the study went on to say that, “while billions of dollars are invested in preventing COVID-19-associated deaths, little is being done to care for children left behind.”

They continued stating that, “The consequences for children can be ‘devastating,’ including institutionalization, abuse, traumatic grief, mental health problems, adolescent pregnancy, poor educational outcomes, and chronic and infectious diseases.”

Children in Southeast Asia and Africa have suffered the greatest rate of losses. According to the study, one out of every 50 children were affected in these countries as compared with one out of 150 children in the Americas.

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The loss for these children reflect the death of one or both parents due to the pandemic. Here is a sobering look at a break down of the actual numbers.

  • 4.2 million in Southeast Asia
  • 2.5 million in Africa
  • 1.5 million in the Americas
  • 1.5 million in the Eastern Mediterranean region
  • 500,000 in Europe

The U.S. is is grouped with other nations in the “Americas”. However, in there U.S. there are an estimated 250,000 children who have lost one or both parents to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Many child and family advocates have compared the current humanitarian crisis to what was created by the AIDS epidemic. In a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development, released in 2020, 17 million children lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.

These statistics are “mind-blowing,” commented John Hecklinger, president and CEO of Global Fund for Children. The Global Fund for Children partners with 250 organizations in 46 countries. Hecklinger says that unfortunately, the loss of one or both parents has created additional issues for children such as child trafficking, early marriage and exploitative labor practices involving children.

Photo Credit: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/(typeinvestigations.org)

Not very many countries have stepped up to address this issue. The United States, and a few others, have made national commitments to give affected families support and “connect to resources they may need to help with their healing, health, and well-being.”

To read more about the support offered here in the United States, click here to read the memorandum.

Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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