Report Reveals COVID-19 Impact on Young Minds

April 28, 2021

War Child Corona virus pandemic research - effect on children worldwide
Before COVID-19, an estimated 1 in 5 children living in conflict-affected areas were in urgent need of mental health care. Now, this figure has more than tripled for children fleeing war and violence.

These are the findings of a new report by War Child and World Vision. Together, we are calling upon governments and decision makers to hear these silent alarm bells.

War Child and leading NGO World Vision surveyed 500 refugee and displaced children and youth living in six fragile and conflict-affected countries - Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and South Sudan.

Findings reveal that more than half of these children are requesting mental health support while 12 per cent were identified as being at immediate risk of developing a mental health disorder. Many expressed increased feelings of fear, anxiety and sadness as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic and repeated lockdown. Meanwhile, parents reported changes in their relationship with their children, pointing to aggressive behaviour, stress and rising tensions at home.

A New Era of Distress

“This is a silent and escalating crisis - one we cannot turn our backs on”, explains War Child humanitarian director Dr. Unni Krishnan. “Schools remain closed, parents are out of work and physical distancing in crowded refugee camps is nothing short of impossible. An entire generation of children and young people could face catastrophic and long-lasting impacts to their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Watch the story of Mahmoud (14)

Conducted over the space of six months, our research offers a glimpse into the reality of life in a refugee camp or informal settlement. In all six countries basic needs regularly go unmet, health systems are in disrepair and freedom of movement is limited. The deteriorating situation in Lebanon provides a stark reminder of the risk of all-out system collapse. COVID-19 has only compounded the problem presenting new and acute threats to children - in particular coronavirus transmission, domestic violence and forced labour.

Mahmoud (above) is one of thousands of young people who have had to pick up work as a result of the pandemic.

Dwindling Support

As demand for mental health care reaches record high, support services have been significantly curtailed. On top of this, our study shows that while 86 per cent of younger children (7-14) can and do seek emotional support from a friend or family member, nearly half of young adults (19-24) feel they have no-one to turn to.

“Children who have experienced conflict, violence and traumatic events need unhindered access to mental health and psychosocial support services in a protective and safe environment”, says Dana Buzducea, global lead for advocacy and external engagement at World Vision International. “Despite this, governments spend only 2 to 4 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health services - services often limited or non-existent for children living in conflict-affected regions.”

Call for Change

War Child and World Vision are working together to draw attention to this critical gap. We are calling upon governments and humanitarian organisations to free up some $1.4 billion in funds to reach the 456 million children in urgent need of mental health support in fragile and conflict-affected regions. War Child is also urging vaccine manufacturers to share their intellectual property and make vaccines widely available and affordable to all - particularly vulnerable refugee and displaced communities.

“This is not just the responsibility of humanitarian agencies. It is a duty of all humanity”, says Krishnan. “Without the necessary action in the months ahead, we are on the brink of a global youth mental health crisis.”

Read the full report - The Silent Pandemic - here.
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