One in four children across the country had trouble sleeping due to the stress of the pandemic
More children have ended up in child labor during the pandemic
A quarter of parents said they scold or punish their children more
NEW DELHI, 5 July 2022: Children across India have had difficulty sleeping, faced more violence at home and more have been forced into child labor during the COVID pandemic, according to a new Save the Children study. -19.
A survey of 4,000 people from six states – one from each of six geographic regions – looked at the impact of the pandemic on children in India in the 18 months between June 2020 and December 2021, with the results prompting calls to more resources for a toll-free helpline for children.
The study found that children’s mental wellbeing was negatively affected by isolation from friends during lockdowns, with 27% feeling lonely and increasing instances of substance abuse. Nearly one in 10 children said that someone in their circle of friends used drugs or other addictive substances, and 3% of children surveyed said they used these substances.
Research also showed that 39% of children across the country were worried about the death, illness or separation of a loved one during the pandemic, with one in four children reporting trouble sleeping due to stress. .
When asked if they had observed any changes in their child’s behavior, one in four parents said their child had experienced a sudden emotional or behavioral change (27%) and abandoned previous play habits ( 29%).
Parents also reported that they had increasingly resorted to violent behavior against their children during the pandemic. About one in four parents said they had scolded or punished their children more since the start of the pandemic as financial worries increased, with more than three-fifths (62%) of households reporting a drop in income from March 2020 to December 2021.
The number of children in child labor increased to 5% post-COVID from 4% pre-pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than half a million people in India are believed to have died of COVID-19 in three deadly waves, although the true figure is thought to be much higher.
Anindit Roy Chowdhury, Program Manager at Save the Children India said:
“We are shocked and disturbed by these findings, which show that the mental and physical impact on children over 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe and incredibly harmful. Lockdowns not only led to a reduction in socialization between children, but also increased the intensity of different emotions felt by parents and children. This resulted in a complex array of challenges that impacted the mental health of children and youth.
“Our assessment showed an increase in feelings of loneliness, anxiety, anger, grief and substance abuse in children. These results are devastating for parents to learn and for policy makers to hear, and must prompt immediate action.
“We hope this will serve as valuable evidence to influence and support the effective measures taken by the Government of India to respond to the changes that have taken place in the mental and physical health of Indian children.”
Following the findings, Save the Children is calling on the Indian government to allocate more funds to frontline child protection services, including bolstering the nationwide Childline (1098) toll-free number and ensuring it is is accessible to all children in distress. . The helpline was established in 1996 and receives approximately 5 million calls per year.
The government must also urgently develop a child and adolescent mental health policy that can be used to reinforce positive mental health. Alongside this, there should be mental health and psychosocial support to tackle the impact of COVID-19 for children, parents, carers, education staff and their communities.
Save the Children has worked in India for over 80 years, in 18 states, on issues related to the education, health, protection and humanitarian needs of children, especially for those who are most deprived and marginalized .
iSince the onset of the pandemic, Save the Children has worked to train community health teams and child protection workers in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Delhi in psychosocial first aid (PFA), for them to respond to the management of stress and trauma in children and caregivers. In Rajasthan, Save the Children ran the ‘UMEED’ helpline in partnership with local government and local NGOs.
NOTE TO EDITORS
For the report, 4,052 respondents (2,743 adults and 1,309 adolescents) across 24 districts in six states namely Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Assam were surveyed between June 2020 and December 2021.
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