Global Orphanhood Associated with COVID-19

Summary

  • Millions of children have become orphans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Orphanhood increases the likelihood of poverty, abuse, delayed development, reduced access to education, and institutionalization.
  • Globally, the number of children in urgent need continues to grow.

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COVID Orphans Lancet CDC 5.2 million caregivers animation

Text alternative:
Every 6 seconds,* a child loses a parent or primary caregiver due to COVID-19

*As of October 31, 2021

Time is ticking
COVID-19 puts children at risk of growing-up without a family-caregiver
Learn more at cdc.gov/coronavirus

Global Orphanhood Associated with COVID-19

COVID-19 can lead to death within weeks, leaving families with little time to prepare children (ages 0 to less than 18) for what they might experience when their caregiver(s) die. Millions of children have entered the state of orphanhood in the pandemic due to COVID-19-related deaths of one or both parents, and/or grandparent caregivers. These children often face risk factors that may increase the likelihood of experiencing poverty, abuse, delayed development, reduced access to education, and institutionalization.

Globally, the numbers of children in urgent need continue to rapidly escalate. The COVID-19-associated orphanhood crisis is occurring against a backdrop of more than 140 million children who experienced orphanhood before the COVID-19 pandemic.

To prevent child separation, avoid institutionalization of children, and provide effective psychosocial support, national response plans should focus on strengthening the immediate and long-term capacity of families to care for children. Three complementary strategies are recommended (see UNICEF link below):

  • PREVENT: COVID-19 associated death of caregivers by accelerating equitable access to vaccines and mitigation efforts and healthcare
  • PREPARE: safe and loving family-based care support services (modeled after HIV programs) and avoid orphanages
  • PROTECT: children using evidence-based strategies that address increased risks of vulnerability and abuse, and strengthen their recovery and resilience

Global Impact

Current estimates show that on average, for every COVID-19-related death, one child loses a parent or primary caregiver. At the current rate of infections, this equates to one child entering orphanhood every six (6) seconds as of October 31, 2021. Timely data on cases and deaths to characterize COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver deaths is essential so countries can develop well-informed national response plans, according to a recent Lancet study.

To see up-to-date minimum estimates of children affected by COVID-19 orphanhood visit the Country Calculator designed by the Imperial College of London: https://imperialcollegelondon.github.io/orphanhood_calculator

Global Coronavirus Orphanhood Animated World Map Imperial college CDC Lancet

Visit the Interactive Visualization tool designed by the Imperial College of London to see comparisons between countries and over time minimum estimates of children affected by COVID-19-related orphanhood; global, regional, and country-level maps with estimates over time can also be accessed via the Interactive Visualization tool.

Policies in Action

As the number of children affected by COVID-19-related orphanhood continues to grow, many governments around the world gear-up and put policies and laws into action:

  • In Brazil, at least 7 bills have been presented to the Chamber of Deputies/Congress in several states to “put in place a series of measures to ensure the protection, education and health” of minors under age 18 who lost parents to COVID-19. In 2021-2022, at least 11 states and some big cities, such as Sao Paolo, have either ratified laws or are considering bills providing monetary stipends of 500 Brazilian Reals ($100 USD) for each child affected per month until the child reaches the “legal majority” age of 18.
  • In Peru, the government will provide a 200 Peruvian sol monthly stipend (approx. 53 USD) through the National Comprehensive Program for Family Welfare (INABIF) for each child left without a guardian due to COVID-19. Priority will be given to families struggling with poverty or extreme poverty.
  • In Mexico, the Benito Juarez scholarship offers children affected by COVID-19-related orphanhood a monthly stipend for 800 Mexican pesos (approximately 40 USD).
  • In the US, many families and communities have received support from federal government programs that help with the loss they have experienced due to COVID-19. The federal government commits to ensuring that families and communities can connect to resources they may need to help with their healing, health, and well-being.
    • A California proposed bill would establish the California Survivor Benefit (CalSurvivor) Program, immediately “providing trust fund accounts for children whose parent or guardian died from the COVID-19 virus and foster children,” and “eventually for all children born into low-income homes.” The CalSurvivor Program, a county- or county consortia-administered program, is also looking to provide financial support for minors who are California residents with a deceased parent – who was also a California resident upon their death – when the minors are not eligible for federal OASDI (Old-Age, Survivor, and Disability Insurance) survivor benefits.
  • In India, the government has invited the public to register orphaned children on a platform to make sure they are receiving monthly aid, according to Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development.
    • For Indian children who lost both parents or a sole parent to COVID-19, the government provides ₹10 lakh (1 million rupees) (approx. 13,112 USD) to each child when he or she turns 18-years-old. This amount will be used to give a monthly stipend from the age of 18 for the next five years to help with higher education. At the age of 23, the beneficiary will get the entire amount as one lump sum. The government will also help with school education and extend health insurance coverage of ₹5 lakh (500,000 rupees or 6,556 USD).
    • In parallel, the Indian government announced further measures to help families that lost an earning member to the pandemic. The steps include providing surviving families with a pension and health insurance to the dependents.
Resources

Publications

Prevent COVID-19-associated deaths of parents and caregivers.

Prepare safe and loving family-based care support services.

  • Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity (APCCA) (A Whole of U.S. Government Interagency Commitment)
    • Guides a whole of government approach to investing in the development, care, dignity, and safety of the world’s most vulnerable children and their families, fostering collaboration and coordination, and maximizing results across departments and agencies.

Protect children who have experienced orphanhood.

Page last reviewed: June 2, 2022
Content source: Global Health