Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. An estimated 1 562 000 children lost at least one primary or secondary caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Countries that had caregiver deaths over 1 per 1000 children included Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, USA, Argentina, and Russia.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown:

While vaccine distribution around the world has alleviated significant stresses on our healthcare systems, the long-term consequences of the pandemic are now beginning to gain attention. Of vital importance, there are many children who have lost a parental figure or caregiver to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative to determine the extent of orphanhood brought about by the pandemic so that we may allocate the necessary support to those affected. This modelling study used fertility and mortality data from 21 countries between March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 to estimate the number of children who lost parents or caregivers due to the global pandemic. The results showed that approximately 1 134 000 children lost at least one primary caregiver. When considering secondary caregivers, such as co-residing grandparents, this number rises to 1 562 000 children. Limitations of this study included limitations regarding mortality and fertility statistics, such as COVID-19 related deaths that were not indicated as due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, this study showed the tragic hidden statistics of the pandemic that must be considered in recovery planning.

In-Depth [retrospective cohort]:

This modelling study used mortality and fertility rate data to estimate the deaths of primary or secondary caregivers for children in 21 countries. Children were defined as younger than 18. Primary caregivers were defined as parents or custodial grandparents, while secondary caregivers were defined as co-residing grandparents or older kin. COVID-19 associated deaths included those due to COVID-related measures, such as lockdowns, restrictions and decreased access to healthcare if the distinction could be made.

The results of the model estimated that 1 134 000 (95% CI 884 000-1 185 000) children lost at least one primary caregiver. 1 562 000 children were estimated to have lost either a primary or secondary caregiver. This statistic is highest in Peru, where an estimated 10.2 per 1000 children lost at least primary caregiver. Other analyses showed that the number of orphaned children due to COVID-19 was higher than children who died from the disease. Additionally, the loss of a paternal figure was 2-5 times more likely than the loss of a maternal figure.

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