The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has hit India hard, recording four new cases every second and more than two deaths every minute. Along with the increase in COVID-19 cases, the impact on children being affected by the virus has also increased leading to dire consequences for their access to essential health, social, protection and education services. In addition, 24 million children are impacted by floods, drought, cyclones, and other hazards that exacerbate underlying vulnerabilities on a recurrent basis.
UNICEF is supporting preparedness and response efforts to address the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19, natural disasters, and civil strife, targeting the most vulnerable, including people in slums and migrant families. UNICEF aims to protect children and their families from exposure to COVID-19, minimize the impacts of public health measures, address the socio-economic consequences, and maintain access and provision of basic social services. In response to the impact of natural disasters, UNICEF will provide lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance for children and their families, and strengthen resilience to predictable hazards by enhancing child-centred disaster risk management systems and risk-informed programming.
UNICEF is requesting US$126.7 million to assist 84 million people, including 39 million children.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
The number of COVID-19 infections in India is among the highest globally, with India crossing the grim milestone of 400,000 daily reported cases and more than 3,000 daily deaths on 1 May. As of 3 May, the total confirmed COVID-19 cases was 19 million, with 218,959 deaths. The Government of India has vaccinated more than 154 million people as of 1 May and now has opened the age of eligibility for 18-44 years of age, enabling more youth to avail of vaccines.
School closures related to COVID-19 containment measures affected 286 million children last year and with the ongoing wave, schools are currently closed nation-wide. The digital divide is significant making access to remote learning challenging with only 24 per cent of households having internet access.
Protection risks have also increased due to the pandemic. Last year, reports of violence against children increased by 50 per cent with access to child protection services remaining limited. Women and girls are at greater risk of gender-based violence and increased burden of household chores and unpaid care. Restrictive gender norms may prevent girls, including adolescents, from engaging in and benefiting from crisis preparedness and response. Children and adolescents with disabilities are also at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions and difficulties maintaining social distancing.
The gross domestic product has contracted by 7.5 per cent compared to 4.4 per cent growth in Q2 2019-20. An estimated 122 million workers – three-quarters of them in the informal sector – have lost their jobs. COVID-19 has led to the highest mass economic migration in 70 years and disrupted the delivery and quality of essential health, nutrition, education and child protection services.
India is also prone to multiple hazards, including climate-related disasters. Over the past decade, the number of droughts has nearly doubled and with a significant rise in the incidence of floods. Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 30 million people were impacted annually by floods and 4.5 million people were impacted by cyclones. Additionally, India is prone to a wide range of geophysical hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides.
The combined socio-economic impacts of these and other crises – including the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and civil strife – threaten to push vulnerable families into extreme poverty, giving rise to distress, mental health challenges and violence, abuse and exploitation of girls and boys. Disasters can lead to food and water shortages and polluted air, with related impacts on children's health, and flooding can destroy schools and impede learning.