This weekend brings with it the festival of lights, Diwali and Bal Diwas or Children's Day. In the pandemic, these are small joys that have kept and continue to keep people together. The history of November 14 has been sewed keeping in mind the fondness of India's first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Parliament's resolution to celebrate his birth anniversary as the day that we remind the country about our work towards "the citizens of tomorrow". Be it their education, upliftment and in terms of the opportunities that they receive being part of the future of the country.
As much as the entire social sector has relentlessly worked towards keeping the systems of development in place, the pandemic and the consequent lockdown have disrupted them. Children from all backgrounds have been majorly affected by them. Epidemics and pandemics, such as COVID-19, produce potential risks to children's development due to the high risk of illness, increased level of stress in both children and their parents/caregivers. Situations that are potentially for a longer period those disrupt the normal functioning and routine of children tend to pose unforeseen risks in their lives which need to be still looked at in priority.
Key actors of child development work together, never in isolation, for the development. COVID-19's higher impact can be noted on the effects that it has had on the individual players of development such as, healthcare, socialization, early-child care, education and several other interactions that are predominant for successful development. One must not overlook the socio-economic diversity across the country that leaves out many children due to their vulnerable backgrounds.
The Journal of Pediatrics suggests some mitigating actions to support early and late child development keeping in mind the ongoing crisis:
Healthcare and Economic Relief must go hand in hand Provisions of nutritious food is an important aspect of child development. With the ongoing pandemic, the United Nations' State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report forecasts that the coronavirus could push over 132 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. This setback is also predicted to largely weaken the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. Keeping this in mind, there needs to be concrete economic support to provide interventions in the ongoing efforts of Mid Day Meals (MDM) and Take Home Rations (THR). Studies show that the beneficiaries of Mid Day Meals are over 12,00,00,000 children. These efforts must be accompanied by support for caregivers' well-being, mental health and capacity to provide nurturing care for young children as a family support package, so that young children can thrive, not just survive. Delivery Platform at scale to reach the mass must adapt to the current pandemic Trained paraprofessional community health and support workers supervised within the health system in collaboration with faith organizations and civil society, are effective at reaching large numbers of people in their homes and in groups to deliver information, essential health products, support services, and referrals. Furthermore, radio, television, digital, and app-based learning programs for young children, radio, and other mass media interventions for parents and caregivers, and psychosocial support through community organizations needs to be made available in the crisis. It is widely noted that the internet today acts as an exclusive commodity only for those who can afford the same. In this effort to make the delivery platforms capable of reaching the masses during a pandemic, the availability and accessibility of the same should be made easy. Giving due regard to challenges pertaining to the mental health of children The transition from offline to the online may, at times, seem like a progressive change for the world but that often brings with itself threats in the virtual space. Additionally, with quarantine and social distancing being the norm of the time, it has escalated the instances of anxiety and depression in children. And social interactions with many other are crucial aspects of child development that are limitations of the crisis. Required help to both children and their caregivers is necessary through adequate expertise in the area.
The aforementioned are some effective methods with which the gaps that the pandemic has created can be filled. This being an ongoing process of learning and understanding the impacts of such a pandemic, it also shows us the way to make policies that are headed in the direction of the welfare of people who suffer from its consequences.
To navigate the best ways to safeguard and provide support to child development, all key players of the same need to be streamlined. On 14th November and 20th November, national and universal children's day is celebrated to remind us of the work that still needs to be done in order to accomplish developmental goals in an inclusive world for the future of this world, that are children. COVID-19's incoming has thrown light on stumped growth models and infrastructure that require work so as to adapt to the current crisis. This can be viewed as an opportunity to learn from shortcomings and enhance support for the children.