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Young Children and the Pandemic UNICEF Early Childhood COVID-19 Response in East Asia and the Pacific

By UNICEF EAPRO

Early childhood starting from conception, especially in the first 1,000 days of life, is a period when 90 per cent of brain development takes place. At this crucial time, young children need nurturing care – good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, early learning and stimulation, physical and emotional security and safety. This early moments in life offer a window of opportunity to boost children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development – influencing their readiness to learn in school, to solve problems, to relate to others, and overall mental health and well-being. This ultimately has a significant impact on their adult lives, affecting their ability to earn a living and contribute to their societies.  

COVID-19 threatens this precious opportunity for children in early childhood to develop healthy brains and lives through the disruption of essential health and nutrition services, the suspension of opportunities for early learning, the stress and burden on families and parenting, increased protection risks, and the severe negative impact on families’ household economies. 

Using the latest available evidence, this report summarizes the impact of the pandemic on services essential for young children’s development: For example, that the number of children younger than 5 years visiting community health centres in Viet Nam dropped by 48 per cent; that in Indonesia, more than 50 per cent of households reported not being able to meet their family’s nutritional needs; or that in the Philippines, more than 80 per cent of households experienced a decrease in their household income. Households facing disadvantages before COVID-19 – those with young children, those living in rural and remote areas and low-income households – are in most cases more disproportionally affected by the pandemic. 

For a copy of the case study, please visit: https://www.unicef.org/eap/young-children-and-pandemic 

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