An estimated 1.5 million children worldwide lost a mother, father or other caregiving relative in the first 14 months of the pandemic, according to a new study. More than a million lost primary caregivers.
“These unnamed children are the tragic overlooked consequence of the millions of pandemic dead,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in The Lancet medical journal on Tuesday.
Many more children will experience such losses as the virus rages in many countries, the researchers predict, and the bereaved are likely to be at risk for an array of further traumas that may include mental health problems, abuse, chronic diseases and poverty.
The estimates were developed using death statistics and other data for 21 countries that accounted for more than 76 percent of global Covid deaths up to April 30, 2021. The international research team was led by a member of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and included experts from international agencies, including the World Health Organization and Imperial College London.
The deaths of grandparents represent a powerful blow to many children. “In the U.S.A., 40 percent of grandparents living with grandchildren serve as their primary caregivers; in the U.K., 40 percent of grandparents provide regular care for grandchildren,” the researchers wrote.
In a separate online report linked to the study, the researchers warned that with the pandemic far from over and vaccinations yet to reach much of the global population, the deaths of caregivers were likely to keep mounting, with “severe consequences lasting at least through the age of 18 years for children affected.”
“The impact of these parental and caregiver deaths differs across families, communities and nations,” the researchers wrote. “Yet, there is one commonality: A child’s life often falls apart when he or she loses a parent or grandparent caregiver.”