As coronavirus grips the world, our experts are examining what it means for the world's poorest communities, what we can do to slow it down and how we can support health workers, communities, families and children.
By Wing Yan Mak, World Vision China’s Head of Child Protection
Coronavirus is a terrible, deadly disease. It’s killed more than 16,500 people so far, over 3,000 of them in my country, China.
The past few weeks have been terrifying for many of us, even those of us in the aid sector, working hard to deliver much needed equipment and supplies to hospitals and vulnerable families. The people we’re helping include our neighbours, even our own families. It is an unprecedented time.
And while children have largely been spared the worst physical impact of the virus, they remain incredibly vulnerable to the secondary impacts of the disease. What happens to children whose parents are falling ill, or die? Or those whose caregivers lose their jobs, meaning that they can’t put food on the table anymore? It was reported in January that a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy died after his father and brother were quarantined, leaving him without care.
What impact is this having on the mental health of an entire generation of children?
We may not know the full extent of this catastrophe for some time, but we already know this: children are suffering.
Feelings of anxiety, mistrust of others and fear of contracting the virus are common. Misinformation and rumours about the growing threat posed by the virus and shortage of daily necessities are worsening the anxiety, and strict restriction of movement – while crucial to slow the spread of the disease – mean that many families are left isolated.
The Chinese Psychology Society found that almost half of all respondents to a survey (42.6 per cent) felt anxious, and out of 5,000 people who participated in a test on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), more than a fifth had obvious symptoms. Children living with stressed parents are likely to share the burden of stress, and are at higher risk of negative coping mechanisms such as violent behaviour and substance abuse.
Children have also told our staff they feel worried about not seeing their friends for a long time – not able to socialise except through social media.