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COVID 19 Public Health Measures and Risks to Children’s Protection and Well-being

Learn more about COVID 19 public health measures and risks to children’s protection and well-being.
Social worker helping child to wear a face mask

Public health measures aim to reduce the burden of COVID-19—such as the pressure on the health care system and fatality rates—by reducing the spread of the disease. Measures vary from country to country based on the situation and available resources. For this reason, public health measures can have different impacts on children and their families in different contexts.

While many commonly adopted public health measures are seen as necessary, such measures also present risks to children’s protection and well-being. By highlighting the potential child protection risks these measures present, we are able to identify how to mitigate unintended harmful impacts.

The following chart presents some common public health measures used to address COVID-19 and their related risks to children.

Potential Child Protection Impacts from COVID-19 Public Health Measures.

Potential Child Protection Impacts from COVID-19 Public Health Measures.
Public Health Educational Measures Potential Risks to Children
Awareness/educational measures Risk communication and awareness-raising campaigns about the disease, modes of transmission, and/or behaviours to reduce the risk of transmission (such as hand coughs and wearing face-masks) 1) May lead to stigmatization of at-risk groups. 2) May not have content and dissemination strategies tailored to children and young people. 3) Can induce anxiety and psychosocial distress among children, especially if messages are misunderstood.
Control and Mitigation Measures Potential Risks to Children
Social distancing measures- the Promotion of physical distance between people and reduces close contact. 1) Can be unsettling emotionally. 2) Can be of concern to children’s healthy growth and development if put in place for long periods of time as socialization is a vital part of the developmental process. 3) It May overwhelm parents as their usual support systems are not in place and place children at increased risk of violence, abuse, and neglect.
Restrictions on movement activities including closures of schools and offices. 1) It May interrupt children’s learning process and deprive children of opportunities for growth and development. 2) May have nutritional impacts on children who rely on school meals for healthy/basic nutrition. 3) Parents may find themselves unable to support their children – this may range from a lack of support for home learning to inadequate supervision and neglect where parents have to continue to work – either inside or outside of the home. 4) Can create new or aggravate existing risks of exposure to violence, abuse and neglect for children.
immunisation/when available May not be possible to reach some of the most vulnerable children and families—such as children living on the streets or in remote rural areas—with vaccination campaigns.
Containment Measures Potential Risks to Children
Treatment for COVID-19 1) Can overshadow other treatments required by children and caregivers, including those with chronic illnesses. 2) Can prevent caregivers from providing attentive care to children due to their own hospitalization or that of their other children. 3) Lack of documentation of caregivers in treatment can present difficulties in identifying and ensuring suitable alternative care for surviving children in the event that the caregiver dies. 4) Health facilities providing treatment to children may not have child-friendly services that are attuned to children’s developmental and psychosocial needs as well as medical needs.
Isolation and facility-based quarantines 1) May prevent caregivers who are admitted alone from providing care to their children. 2) May not have services in place for the needs of children such as education and social stimulation. 3) May cause children to be separated from their caregivers. 3) May expose adults and children who have been isolated/quarantined to stigmatization. 4) May negatively impact the mental health and well-being of patients and children, including increasing depression and anxiety.
Home-based 1) May heighten levels of anxiety and depression. 2) May limit cognitive and social stimulation for children. 3) Can have financial implications when heads of household cannot work during the quarantine period. 4) Can create new or aggravate existing risks of exposure to violence, abuse, and neglect for children.
Zone-based quarantine (village- or community-level quarantine) Quarantine imposed on whole villages or communities. 1) Can limit the ability of family members to work, engage in agricultural activities, access markets or attend school due to the restrictions on movement. 2) Can cause prolonged family separation when caregivers and children are in different locations at the time that quarantine measures are imposed. 3) Can negatively impact the availability of and access to services.

Your Task

What are the public health measures in place in your context at the moment? Please describe and compare with those of other learners.


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Protecting Children during Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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