'Hidden pandemic': Covid drives sharp rise in number of orphaned children

New research has pointed to a “secondary” crisis within the Covid pandemic, as the number of children being orphaned in the US rises at a rapid rate.

Since March last year, more than 120,000 children in the US lost a parent or grandparent who was a primary provider of financial support and care to the virus, according to a new study published by the journal of Pediatrics.

And another 22,000 children experienced the death of a secondary caregiver such as a grandparent who provided housing but not other basic needs.

(left) Child in isolation at home, looking out a window and wearing a mask (right) Stock photo of a group of people sitting at funeral, casket with flowers in front. Source: Getty Images
The number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic is larger than previously estimated. Source: Getty Images

Official data is not yet available on how many children went into foster care last year.

But the study estimates the pandemic drove a 15 per cent surge in orphans and about one in every 500 children in the US has experienced the loss of at least one parent or caregiver.

“Children facing orphanhood as a result of Covid is a hidden, global pandemic that has sadly not spared the United States,” said Susan Hillis, a researcher with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a lead author of the study.

“All of us – especially our children – will feel the serious immediate and long-term impact of this problem for generations to come,” she said.

“Addressing the loss that these children have experienced – and continue to experience – must be one of our top priorities, and it must be woven into all aspects of our emergency response, both now and in the post-pandemic future.”

A view of
A view of "In America: Remember", public art installation commemorating all Americans who have died of COVID-19. Source: Getty Images

Loss intensified among Black & Hispanics

And the tragic toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans.

More than half of the children who lost a primary caregiver during the pandemic belonged to those two racial groups.

“These findings really highlight those children who have been left most vulnerable by the pandemic, and where additional resources should be directed," one of the study's authors, Dr. Alexandra Blenkinsop of Imperial College London, said in a statement.

The new study's numbers are based on statistical modelling that used fertility rates, death statistics and household composition data to make estimates.

These figures are much higher than previously thought with an earlier study estimating roughly 40,000 children had been orphaned due to Covid-19.

With AP

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