IMPACT OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC ON CHILD’S RIGHT

This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also an economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people.”[1]

  • Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organization

The Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is prevalent in more than 193 countries of the world today prompting the World Health Organization to  upgrade the status of Covid-19 from an epidemic to a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.[2]. Nigeria, the most populous black nation became the first African country to record a positive case of the virus from an Italian immigrant on February 25, 2020.[3]  The negative impacts of the pandemic are better left to the realm of imagination than the province of reality.

The world is clearly set to experience its worst depression only after The Great Depression of the 1930s.[4] Again, the international labour Organization estimates that over 25 million jobs and 3.4 trillion dollars will be lost in labour income world-wide while 100 million more people may be forced into extreme poverty.[5] This portends graver implications for a nation like Nigeria, which prior to the pandemic, was already the world’s poverty capital with a poverty rate of 33 percent.[6]

The begging question remains, what is the impact of the foregoing on child’s right? It does not take rocket science to realize that the child’s rights to life, survival and development which are guaranteed by Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are significantly under threat. In this connection, Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states, “State parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. State parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible, the survival and development of the child.” With glaring poverty levels however, it becomes practically impossible to attain adequate nutrition, right to a healthy and safe environment, security and adequate standard of living which are sine qua non to achieving the right to life.

Again other rights like the child’s right to play, leisure and freedom of association has been affected as it has become practically impossible to keep in touch with friends and outside spaces for play are practically unavailable. There are however more serious implications than the foregoing. It is noteworthy that child trafficking, sexual exploitation and child labour are evils resulting from poverty, which has been brought about by this pandemic. In fact, the huge poverty occasioned by the pandemic is expected to increase child labour by 0.7 percent globally – an estimate that radically alters the prospects of reducing child labour for the first time in 20 years.[7]

Furthermore, another implication of the poverty occasioned by this pandemic is increase in child marriage; a.phenomenon that refers to giving out children below 18 years of age to adults as spouses. Already, 43 % of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th year old birthday, crowning Nigeria as the 11th state where child marriage is highly operative.[8] The pandemic may however worsen this statistics because child marriages will be the most viable alternative for families on the fringes of survival. It becomes a typical example of “take my child while you give me food.” This position is corroborated by the United Nations Population Fund which has in fact estimated that an additional 13 million child marriages may take place over the next 10 years.[9]

Lastly, the child’s right against violence has been compromised by the pandemic. The huge poverty emanating from the pandemic can serve a triggering factor for frustration of adults and consequently, the infliction of violence on children. Sadly, incidents of violence and child abuse are less likely to be detected because of lockdown measures. The implication is that the infliction of violence will most likely be carried out covertly.

This situation is worsened in view of the fact that child protection agencies have reduced monitoring in order to avoid the spread of the virus and the ability of child protection institutions to respond adequately has been weakened. Already, more than 1 billion children are exposed to violence yearly.[10] With the pandemic however, this figure will be magnified and significantly increased. This is no doubt a threat to the actualization of Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that: “State parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In conclusion, in view of the grave havocs that COVID-19 and its concomitant poverty could wreck on child’s rights, it is imperative for governments to respond with positive laws and policies to ameliorate the looming economic dangers. The United States of America provides a ready example in this regard. She enacted her CARES (CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act under which 2.3 trillion dollars, amounting to 11 percent of the United States Gross Domestic Product was dedicated to providing one-time tax rebates to individuals, expanding unemployment benefits and providing food safety nets for the most vulnerable citizens as well as loans for small businesses. Also, under her Pay Check Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, over 483 billion dollars was ear marked to assisting small businesses in the United States of America.[11] Developing countries like Nigeria could follow suit. This will significantly reduce poverty, whose effect is to threaten the rights of children.


[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang–en/index.htm

[2] news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059261

[3] www.icirnigeria.org/report-nigerian-inmates-live-in-danger-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/amp

[4] http://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/04/14/imf-global-economy-to-contract-by-3 percent-due-to-coronavirus.html

[5] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang–en/index.htm

[6] tradingeconomics.com

[7] Najat Maalla M’jid, “Hidden scars: the Impact of Violence and the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children’s Mental Health” (2020) Journal of Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health https://campmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13024-020-00340-8

[8] http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nigeria/

[9] United Nations Population Fund, “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-Based Violence and Child Marriage, UNFPA 2020.

[10] https://reliefweb.int/report/world/covid-19-and-children-s-rights

[11] http://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#U

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