uncertainty about the future are having on young people.

Global Fund for Children’s Managing Director, Hayley Roffey, reflects on COVID-19’s impacts on young people and shares GFC’s commitment to work with and for youth to build a more equitable post-pandemic world.
It’s hard to believe we are already through January 2021. The global coronavirus pandemic is worse than ever. Many countries have reimposed strict lockdowns. New variants of the virus are infecting people at alarming rates. Inequalities continue to grow. And, from Portugal to Brazil to Egypt, our health services are struggling like never before.

At the same time, political instability in 2021 continues to drive fear, separation, and violence in communities around the world. In the United States, insurrection in the Capitol threatened a democratic transition of power and thrust white supremacy back into the spotlight. In Uganda, a pre-election internet blackout cut off the entire country’s access to communication, information, and livelihoods for days. In Guatemala, security forces used batons and tear gas to beat back thousands of migrants seeking refuge from violence and poverty.

It’s not normally so hard to find hope at a time when most are committed to resolutions, goals, and dreams for a new year. Yet for so many of us, 2021 has started like no other year. No matter where you live or what you do, COVID-19 has affected you in some way. But, when I reflect on those most affected, I can’t help but think about the enormous impacts the health and economic crises, restrictions on daily life, and uncertainty about the future are having on young people.

More than 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries have already experienced disruptions to their education, and 24 million children and youth – including more than 11 million girls – may drop out permanently due to the pandemic. The rapid global shift to online learning has also exacerbated the digital divide: two-thirds of school-aged children worldwide have no access to internet at home and are unable to attend virtual classes.

At the same time, the crisis is threatening children’s safety, wellbeing, and mental health. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, an additional 150 million children have been driven into poverty. A 46-country study by Save the Children found that more than 8 in 10 children have experienced increased negative feelings, and one-third of families have experienced violence at home. Around the world, the community-based organizations we partner with at Global Fund for Children have reported higher rates of early marriage and pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, child labor and exploitation, child abuse, and trafficking.

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At GFC, we see and recognize these needs. We know that the children of the world are facing a crisis like no other. We know many children are now at risk of not being able to return to school, due to financial pressures on their families and the need to begin working at an earlier age. We know generations of young people are struggling to find work at a time when jobs in industries such as hospitality, travel, and retail are unavailable. We are worried about the long-term mental health consequences for children and youth.

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