By University of Oxford, SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
According to a new modeling study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the number of children estimated to have experienced the death of a parent or caregiver as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has climbed to more than 10.5 million globally as of May 1, 2022.
The new study, involving the University of Oxford, Imperial College, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), builds on the best available and most conservative data recently published by WHO on excess COVID-19 deaths (14.9 million as of Dec 31, 2021), to establish estimates of orphaned children in every country.
This is the first-time availability of these comprehensive data on excess deaths for every country, and it enabled the data modelers to update global minimum estimates of pandemic orphanhood and caregiver death among children based on these excess deaths.
Excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.
“Globally, children who experience the loss of a parent or caregiver are at an increased risk of poverty, exploitation and sexual violence or abuse, HIV infection, mental health challenges, and severe distress.”
Estimates of excess deaths can provide information about the burden of mortality potentially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths that are directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19.
In this study, authors analyzed country-level deaths, fertility rates, and national excess mortality data provided by the WHO, the Economist, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and used mathematical modeling to develop global estimates based on the WHO estimates, which were the most conservative.
“The death of a parent or caregiver places children at a heightened risk of lifelong adversity, unless given appropriate support in time,” said lead author Dr. Susan Hillis, who spearheaded this work during her tenure at the CDC and now serves at Oxford as Co-Chair of the Global Reference Group for Children Affected by COVID-19 and Crisis, which is hosted by WHO.
First author Joel-Pascal Ntwali N’konzi (African Institute for Mathematical Sciences) commented,
“The more than 10 million children left without caregivers by COVID-19 will face all kinds of challenges. In my continent, Africa, more than 2.5 million children are affected, and as they struggle to survive without caregivers they face increased risks of violence and sexual exploitation. The best time to act to help these children and their families is now” …