Impact of Covid-19 on South African children

The impact of Covid-19 on children in South Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the children of South Africa and which has left many children parentless, some who will be orphans without the means and support to grieve normally. Below are two recent news reports of the impact Covid-19 is having on South African children and it leaves us with the question that if these children and adolescents are not supported through their grief journeys will we be seeing a lost and hurting generation in the future?

A recent article ‘Covid-19’s cruellest grief is reserved for children’  from TimesLive website reports the following statistic:

‘In SA, no-one has tallied the number of children who have lost a parent. But data shows there have been more than 42,000 “excess deaths” during the pandemic among people aged between 30 and 54, the age group in which many parents fall.’

To read this article click here

Covid 19: The children orphaned in South Africa

Sky news examines the grief of one family in Port Elizabeth and mentions how the community have rallied together to provide food parcels and other neccessaties for the children orphaned due to Covid-19. The report mentions that many are grieving those who have died while still doing the best for the children. Unfortunately there is no mention of how these children are responding to their losses and if they are being provided with any bereavement support. What this report does in a sense highlight is that this scenario will be the same throughout South Africa and that it is imperative that we recognise that children at this time may experience complicated or delayed grief patterns which will need to be addressed and the correct support provided.

To watch this recent video clip click here

Stigma associated with Covid-19

A further impact that needs consideration is how the outbreak of Covid-19 has provoked social stigma. Many families, including children and adolescents whose family members have died from Covid-19 are facing discrimination. In an article  ‘Kids Will Get COVID-19. We Need To Make Sure They’re Not Bullied For It’ from the author, Joshua Barocas, an infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and a WBUR Cognoscenti contributor stated:

There is a significant stigma associated with COVID-19 that could have long-term, devastating effects, especially for children. As a parent, I am terrified about the potential backlash and bullying that my children might face if they become infected. I am worried that they would be blamed or shunned by classmates, educators or parents. It is true that a single infection in a classroom will disrupt lives — close contacts will need to be tested and possibly quarantine and may become infected. 

How much more then will a child who is grieving the death of a loved one from Covid-19 be impacted by the stigma associated with Covid-19. An already grieving child who is being ‘bullied’ or discriminated against will be at risk of experiencing complicated grief.