More than 100 million children in South Asia could experience poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a UN report on Tuesday said the long-term effects of the crisis.
The number of cases in the densely populated region, which is home to almost a quarter of the world's population, has increased in recent weeks, although the region is releasing it to revive economies that have been severely destroyed by the virus.
"Although they may be less vulnerable to the virus itself, children are severely affected by the consequences, including the economic and social consequences of the blocking," the UNICEF report said.
Around 600 million children live in South Asia – which includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan – of which around 240 million already live in poverty.
In the worst case, the virus could drive another 120 million people into poverty and food insecurity within six months, it warned.
"Without urgent action, COVID-19 could destroy an entire generation's hopes and future," said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, in a statement.
Advances in health care – such as vaccination, nutrition and other services – have been "severely disrupted".
In Bangladesh, UNICEF found that some of the poorest families could not afford three meals a day, whereas in Sri Lanka, 30 percent of families had cut their food intake.
With schools closed, poorer children struggle to keep up with their education, especially in rural households without internet access – or even electricity.
"There are concerns that some disadvantaged students could join the nearly 32 million children who left school before the COVID-19 strike," the report added.
Other important issues include the risk of domestic violence, depression, and other mental health problems when teenagers spend more time at home.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)