An additional 1.5 million children have entered a state of multi-dimensional poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published jointly by Save the Children and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Sept. 17.
Household income is only one measure of poverty, and it doesn’t fully capture the various ways that individuals, and particularly children, experience poverty.
Factors such as access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation and clean water all impact where and how children experience deprivation – thus, the multi-dimensional label.
In 80 developing nations, prior to the pandemic, 45% of children were experiencing severe deprivation, and 75% were experiencing moderate deprivation, in at least one of the dimensions above.
A technical note accompanying the report details the process for making the calculations, explaining only education and health service access are considered because these are two areas that have been most immediately impacted.
“Some of the elements that constitute and are used to measure child poverty do not change quickly, even in the case of a major shock. For instance, for children who have access to safe drinking water at home, their situation does not change due to a pandemic,” the report said.
“Thus, in order to estimate the impact of COVID-19 (and the lockdown-type initiatives to control and contain it) in the short run, only the dimensions that are affected quickly are analyzed. … The two dimensions that are affected most rapidly are: education (due to the immediate effect of school closures) and health (due to the disruption of health services).”
When considering only access to education, health services or both, a 9% increase in multi-dimensional poverty is projected, which means that 1.5 million more children are now experiencing more than one area of deprivation.
Without further action by governments and the international community, this number will likely continue to increase, as other poverty measures that change less quickly begin to be impacted by the longer-term consequences of the pandemic.
“Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a press release accompanying the report. “Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”