Preventing a lost decade: Urgent action to reverse the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children and young people


This report was published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in December 2021. It outlines the state of children’s rights and the threats they face in relation to climate change, war, conflict, natural disasters, human rights violations and more recently, the covid-19 pandemic.

The covid-19 pandemic has been the worst crisis for children in UNICEF history, the report states. The unequal and inadequate supply of covid-19 vaccines has risked the health of many communities. The pandemic has also changed children’s lives by adversely affecting their economic conditions, physical and mental health, nutrition and education. The report also includes testimonials from children across the world on their experiences during the pandemic.

The 44-page report is divided into three main sections: Introduction (Section 1), COVID-19's ongoing impact on children (Section 2); and First in line for investment, last in line for cuts: An urgent agenda for action for children (Section 3).


  1. The report states that more than 82 million people across the world were displaced in 2020, 42 per cent of which were children. Additionally, due to nationwide shutdowns more than 1.5 billion students globally were unable to attend school.

  2. As many as 23 million children did not receive essential vaccines in 2020. This was the highest number recorded since 2009 and a four million increase from 2019 figures.

  3. More than 60 per cent of the 23 million children lived in 10 countries: Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines. As high as 17 million children had not received even a single dose of vaccine.

  4. An additional 100 million children were estimated to be living in multi-dimensional poverty in 2021 compared to times before the pandemic. During the same span of time, 60 million more children are expected to be living in monetary poor households.

  5. Around 59 million children were projected to suffer from wasting (having low weight for their height) in 2022. Multidimensional poverty among children rose by 15-18 per cent in 2020.

  6. As per data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as of October 31, 2021, around 55 million students across 14 countries had been affected by school shutdowns. Low-income and lower-middle income countries were more affected than upper-middle income and high-income countries.

  7. Around 2.2 billion people under the age of 25 do not have an internet connection at their homes, the report notes. This lack disproportionately affects low-income countries where only six per cent of people under 25 years of age have internet access compared to 87 per cent in high-income countries.

  8. Around 63 million girls and 97 million boys – 10 per cent of all children worldwide – were engaged in child labour at the beginning of 2020. Due to pandemic-led poverty, the number was projected to rise by another nine million by the end of 2022.

  9. The report states that more than 13 per cent of young people aged 10-19 years have a diagnosed mental disorder and that among those aged 15-19 years, suicide is the fourth major cause of death. Moreover, one in five young people reported feeling depressed as per data gathered by UNICEF from 21 countries in 2021.

    Focus and Factoids by Siddhant Garud. 

    PARI Library’s health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)


Dec, 2021