Nearly eight million children worldwide lost a parent or primary caregiver during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.
The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, arrived at that number after reviewing the World Health Organization’s excess mortality statistics from Jan. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2022.
It is estimated that 7.9 million children lost a parent or primary caregiver during that time frame. When the study includes secondary caregivers such as grandparents or other relatives, that estimate jumps to 10.5 million kids.
Areas where orphanhood was most pronounced during the pandemic included Southeast Asia and Africa.
“Among the WHO regions most affected, countries with the highest numbers of bereaved children in Southeast Asia included Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Nepal and in Africa included Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa,” the study’s authors wrote.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, orphanhood increases a child’s likelihood of experiencing poverty, abuse, delayed development, mental health challenges, reduced access to education and institutionalization.
The study says that the U.S. and Peru are the only countries that have made national commitments to address COVID-related orphanhood.
It suggested that the multi-billion dollar U.S. program for children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS-related issues with a parent or caregiver — known officially as President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — is a good template when approaching how to assist the orphaned children of COVID-19.