COVID-19 has affected every individual life in some or the other way. As adults we all know what is happening globally and some how find a way to cope.Where as children are the silent sufferers of this pandemic.They are vulnerable and prone to suffer both physically and mentally.

This time I would like to invite my dear friend and most hard working pediatrician, who has secured top rank in one the most difficult entrance exams of the country and perused his dream of becoming pediatrician from premiere institute of the country i.e postgraduate institute of medical education and research (PGI), Chandigarh. Over to Dr Prabhudev

Dr Prabhudev M Hiremath , MD Pediatrics (PGIMER, Chandigarh)

It is been 7 months since COVID -19 pandemic started in China and eventually affected every country. I never would have thought it would grip the whole world like it did in the coming days. Even while on embarking into this never seen before (for our generation) pandemic, I had a sense of relief when I learned children are least affected and the mortality rate was less in pediatric patients. It didn’t take much time for me to realize I was completely wrong. Children may not form the major chunk in this pandemic statistically, but children are the biggest victims of this universal crisis.

This morning I went through the article just published in the  Lancet journal, it opened up a Pandora’s box, how COVID -19 could affect our efforts for many decades. COVID-19 has brought all essential health services to a standstill, so is the vaccination. This article reveals by halting the vaccination services to curb the COVID-19 spread, we can save one child but by doing so, we are risking 84 lives from other diseases that are unchecked by a lack of vaccination. By other means it is wise to go ahead with the vaccination program, by doing so we can save 84 children from deadly diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, tetanus, etc., by risking 1 child’s life by COVID-19. Authors say these are possible numbers when we consider the worst scenario. COVID-19 pandemic is a tip of the iceberg and its affiliated problems which lie beneath the surface are going to show up at once and are a real threat to the bright future we are striving to create for our children.

According to UNICEF as on June 2020, 117 million (11.7 crores) children are at risk of being pushed into poor monetary households, 1.5 billion (150 crores) children are missing schools and learning opportunities, 368.5 million (36.5 crores) are at risk of malnutrition and 1.2 million under-five deaths in the continued scenario, 117 million (11.7 crores) children are at risk of missing out life -saving measles vaccine across 37 countries. There is one thing common in all these predictions, all these children live in backward countries and to some extent developing countries. Poverty, violence, and abuse are the endpoints of this situation. The impact will be lifelong for all these children. Whatever the effort we had put for decades to uplift the lives of children, especially in underprivileged countries, is being wiped out by this crisis. COVID-19 is stealing the future of our children and pushing them into the darkness.

Coming to India, according to 2019 revised World Population Prospects, the Indian population stands at 1.35 billion (135 crores) and 0-14 years age group constitutes 28.6 %, roughly that is 38.6 crore. Currently, India is in the tight grip of COVID-19, schools are shut and teaching on online platforms without other option, routine vaccinations are hampered due to social distancing and lockdown norms and also rightfully afraid parents who are not willing to take risk of exposing to

COVID-19. Many children belong to rural areas and underprivileged. Poverty, lack of hygiene, malnutrition are still our allies, and children are still the victims of these. COVID-19 pandemic is harming both privileged and underprivileged children in their way. Children of migrant workers and children at slums are expected to suffer more. Corona pandemic will unmask the problems already existed by adding many to it. Online teaching is as in my opinion is not a great solution to educate the children, having said that I don’t have any brighter idea than that. Online teaching cannot reach the children to live in remote areas or underprivileged families for the reasons well known. Their academic year is more or less being wasted. I am particularly interested in children whose parents are COVID-19 warriors. The child who is not able to meet the parent or have to maintain distance from them, who is aware of the threat lying outside and still seeing the parents going out, I feel it is hard for a child to accept. Education which is the greatest weapon of India against all its woes has been hammered by the pandemic. Lack of business, nosediving economy, and unemployment will impact the wellbeing of children directly or indirectly. It is hard on parents too especially on mothers to keep watch on children and meet all their demands just like Sunday on the rest of the days 24×7.

One more important matter that needs to be addressed is probable mental health issues being inflicted on children by the ongoing pandemic. Locked up at homes, not able to meet their friends and teachers, missing their fun and entertainment outside the home, 24×7 breaking news on deaths and sufferings, depressing talks and sightings. By being locked up at home means more are fewer children spend most of their time being in front of the TV, tabs, and cellphones. Parents need to be careful about exposing the children to electronic device screens and duration. Many hours a day for months in front of screens is not good for children’s overall health. It is not just about the screen time, the content they are exposed to for a long time has the potential to change the child’s behavior and thinking.

Solutions for all my woes are not simple since we are talking in terms of crores, there is no fixed solution. It largely depends on governance, geography, demography, and parenting skills. Parents can particularly help their children to sail through this crisis, but the same cannot be applied for underprivileged. Where the resources don’t match the spirit of the parents. These are my woes, I am leaving it here, I hope whoever goes through this will surely think about this underrated problem. In my next article, I will come up with how can we tackle or handle some of the child issues during the COVID-19 crisis. Stay safe and take care.


4 Comments on “COVID 19 and children; A perspective and woes of a pediatrician

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