New Year’s Eve is synonymous with resolutions, fireworks, and predictions for the next year. Everybody has a view. And those views tend not to diverge, regardless of whether it’s The Economist, the IMF, or any other publication. These analyses are incomplete without considering the implications for children. WE is here to help.
Our Prospects for Children 2022 has been published. This is the latest edition in our global outlook series. It aims to assist all those who work to support children thrive and survive. The report is organized around 10 key trends for the year ahead and our interpretation of how each will impact children’s lives.
2022 marks the third year of the pandemic. The harm done to children by the pandemic is becoming more evident. There have been setbacks in routine vaccination progress. A disruption to education for a whole generation. The pandemic will continue to impact the prospects of children, just as it did in the last two years. It is not about when the virus will be eliminated, but how can we reduce its impact sufficiently to ensure that it does not disrupt people’s lives. We are still in the third year of the pandemic, but losses for children continue to mount.
The unwillingness of the world’s leaders to come together in its response in 2021 led to repeated failures. The G20’s goal to vaccine at least 70% of the world’s population by 2022 is at risk due to the same lack of cooperation. The more time it takes to contain the virus, the higher the chance of other escape variants.
COVID-19 was a unique dis-equalizing emergency. Despite having a lopsided access policy to vaccines, learning loss has been the greatest for the poorest children. Women and youth have suffered disproportionately from job losses. 2022 will see new inequalities: Access to COVID mRNA boosters and doses will continue to be restricted. Additionally, access to life-saving treatments such as Paxlovid may become even more limited.
Rich countries will be able to return to their pre-pandemic economic path by year’s end, while low-income countries will remain below the trend. This is exacerbated by the abrupt withdrawal of policy support in many countries. It was prompted by fiscal constraints. This puts at risk public services and social protection measures that have been a lifeline for many families.
Children in wealthy countries may be able to recover faster than children in poorer countries, but children living in humanitarian situations are more vulnerable. In 2022, record humanitarian needs are expected. Climate change will have a greater impact on the world, causing new disasters and increasing instability. It will also exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. The global response to COVID shows the fragility of multilateralism. Conflict and climate change also remind us that it is more needed than ever.
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Climate change will have a greater impact on the world. It will cause new disasters, increase instability, and worsen existing vulnerabilities.
Children will be affected by other sources of instability. Cyberattacks are increasingly targeting institutions that children depend on, such as schools, and armed drones will transform warfare. Inflationary pressures are threatening the purchasing power, particularly for households that are most vulnerable to global food- and energy markets.
It’s time for a shift
The world must rethink its COVID strategy in 2022 to not only focus on mitigating the disease but also on reducing its impact on society, especially children. This means that schools must be kept open, and schools and families should have the resources necessary to ensure children are safe at school. This means putting families and children and the goods and service they depend on at the heart of recovery packages, as well as protecting them from any fiscal adjustments. It involves investing in the restoration of losses caused by the pandemic, including in nutrition, learning, and mental health. It also means that we must double down on strengthening the health system and expanding access for primary healthcare in the poorest countries.
Despite these difficulties, young people and children express optimism for the future. 2022 will offer opportunities to prove their optimistic views.
Technology and infrastructure that were developed to combat the pandemic could be used to drive the next revolution in child survival. In 2022 and 2023 clinical trials will begin for the first mRNA-vaccine candidates against TB, malaria, and HIV. This is just as the RTS/S malaria vaccine was rolled out in sub Saharan Africa.
Green investment should be a major growth engine in 2022. The sales of electric vehicles are expected to double and renewables will account for 95% of all new power generation in the next five-years. This will drive climate mitigation and create countless jobs for young people.
Additionally, emergency pandemic strategies, which include expansions in childcare and mental health services and greater and universal social security, offer a chance for stronger child protections and support. This will strengthen the trust between citizens and governments.