Nearly half of the child population in Latin America and the Caribbean will live in a poor home by the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, warned UNICEF, which called for the large-scale implementation of social protection programs.

The regional adviser of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mónica Rubio, told . that in the region there was in 2018 “an incidence of 38%” of child poverty and that it is calculated that by the end of 2020 the indicator will have ” increased to 46% ”.

The UN body dedicated to children indicated that this expected increase “means that another 16 million children and adolescents will live in low-income households in the remainder of this year, and their total number will reach 87 million.”

The South American region could be the most affected with an increase of almost 30% or almost 11 million children who will live in monetary poverty, followed by the Caribbean, with 19% more or almost one million children, and America Central and Mexico with 13% or almost four million additional infants in poor households.

“The numbers take us back 10 years,” said the regional adviser, who warned that this situation “would significantly reverse the progress in the fight against child poverty registered in most of the region” in the last century.

Inequality and crisis

Latin America and the Caribbean was already an unequal region before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the reasons for the increase in child poverty, Rubio explained.

“The children were over-represented in terms of poverty. Poverty is higher in children than in adults, ”said the UNICEF worker.

And the entry of COVID-19 in the continent, which today is the epicenter of the pandemic, strongly hit the economies of the region, with estimates by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) that the product Regional gross domestic product will contract 5.3%, the worst result since 1930.

A cause that joins the increase in child poverty, since Latin America and the Caribbean “has the most significant impact in terms of GDP”, leading to unemployment.

Only 18% of families with children are covered by cash transfer benefits. According to UNICEF, the pandemic could lead 11.6 million workers to unemployment, which “could mean for those who are formal workers to lose social security and health insurance for themselves and their families.”

Poor nutrition and child labor

The economic consequences have a direct impact on minors, who before COVID-19 suffered from an inequality that now with the crisis of the pandemic “will be exacerbated and further expanded,” said UNICEF.

Rubio explained that in the short term, an immediate loss of income means that families are less likely to pay for enough food and water, and less likely to access medical care or education for minors.

Infants will also be at medium-term risk of engaging in child labor or forced marriage, as malnutrition rates will rise.

But in the long term, it is the potential development of children and adolescents that is at risk.

Unicef ​​points out that “unless urgent measures are taken now”, dropouts, malnutrition and “the worst forms of child labor” will increase.