A collaborative study published in The Lancet has estimated that 1.5 million children worldwide have experienced the death of a parent, custodial grandparent, or other relative who cared for them, as a result of COVID-19. Of those, more than 1 million children experienced the death of one or both parents during the first 14 months of the pandemic, and another half a million experienced the death of a grandparent caregiver living in their own home, the study estimates.
• Researchers estimated figures based on COVID-19 mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021, and national fertility statistics for 21 countries, and extrapolated findings to produce global estimates.
• Findings suggest 1 million children have lost a parent, 1.1 million have lost a parent or custodial grandparent, and more than 1.5 million have lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or other secondary familial caregiver from COVID-19.
• Authors call for urgent investments in services to support children who have lost their parents and caregivers..
Children who have lost a parent or caregiver are at risk of profound short- and long-term adverse effects on their health, safety, and wellbeing, such as increasing the risk of disease, physical abuse, sexual violence, and adolescent pregnancy. The researchers call for urgent action to address the impact of caregiver deaths on children into COVID-19 response plans.
Before the pandemic, there were an estimated 140 million orphaned children worldwide. These children have greater risks of mental health problems, family poverty, and physical, emotional, and sexual violence. They are also more likely to die by suicide or develop a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or stroke.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more children facing the loss of a parent or caregiver. In addition, as older adults are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, many children living in multigenerational families will have experienced the death of a grandparent. Evidence shows that grandparents are increasingly playing key roles in providing care and financial support for their grandchildren worldwide. 
Study author Professor Lucie Cluver, Oxford University, UK, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, says: “We have strong evidence from HIV and Ebola to guide solutions. We need to support extended families or foster families to care for children, with cost-effective economic strengthening, parenting programs, and school access. We need to vaccinate caregivers of children – especially grandparent caregivers. And we need to respond fast because every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to COVID-19." .
Before this report, there were no global figures to quantify how many children have been affected by the loss of a caregiver during the COVID-19 pandemic, either directly (due to the virus) or indirectly (due to another condition that was exacerbated due to the pandemic). The study’s researchers developed mathematical models using the best available data as an initial attempt to estimate the magnitude of this hidden impact of the pandemic on children.
For more information, see:
The CDC Report