ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — In the U.S., 104,884 children were orphaned — meaning at least one parent died as a result of COVID-19 or from a COVID-related illness, based on mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021, according to The Lancet study published Tuesday, July 21. Another 8,824 U.S. children had a custodial grandparent who died from the disease.

The first of its kind study estimated there were 140 million orphaned children, 18 and younger, worldwide —now there is an additional 1.5 million who have lost a parent, grandparent, or caregiver due to COVID-19 in the last 15 months.

The data estimates that more than 1 million children had one or both parents who died from the pandemic in the first 14 months; another 500,000 children had a grandparent caregiver living in their home who died from the disease.

For every two COVID-19 deaths worldwide, one child is left behind to face the death of a parent or caregiver.

By April 30, 2021, these 1.5 million children had become the tragic overlooked consequence of the 3 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide, and this number will only increase as the pandemic progresses.

Our findings highlight the urgent need to prioritize these children and invest in evidence-based programs and services to protect and support them right now and to continue to support them for many years into the future – because orphanhood does not go away.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Dr. Susan Hillis, lead author

The report indicates that there is an increase of grandparents play key roles in providing care and their grandchildren worldwide.

“We have strong evidence from HIV and Ebola to guide solutions. We need to support extended families or foster families to care for children, with cost-effective economic strengthening, parenting programs, and school access. We need to vaccinate caregivers of children – especially grandparent caregivers. And we need to respond fast because every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to COVID-19,” said study author Professor Lucie Cluver, Oxford University, UK, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The pandemic has created a second-tier of impacts, and those are children orphaned of their caregivers. For these children, personal difficulties may happen in their lives such as poverty, abuse, or other adverse consequences, the study states.

The authors of the study “call for urgent action to address the impact of caregiver deaths on children into COVID-19 response plans.”

The Lancet, a peer-reviewed general medical journal, estimated COVID-19 data from 21 countries that accounted for 76% of the deaths.

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • England and Wales
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland, Russia
  • South Africa, Spain
  • USA
  • Zimbabwe

Countries with the highest rates of children losing their primary caregiver (parent or custodial grandparent) included:

  • Mexico: 141,132
  • Brazil: 130,363
  • India: 119,170
  • US: 113,708
  • Peru: 98,975
  • South Africa: 94,625
  • Iran: 40,996
  • Colombia: 33,293

“The researchers linked COVID-19 death rates to fertility data for males and females from those 21 countries to estimate the number of children who had lost a parent as a consequence of COVID-19. Loss of both parents was accounted for so that children were not counted twice,” according to the study.

By April 30, 2021, more than 145 million cases had caused more than 3 million deaths, and hundreds of thousands died from pandemic-related illnesses, according to The Lancet report.

In every country, more middle and older-aged men died from the pandemic than women, according to the study.

Classification of deaths of parents, custodial (skip-generation) grandparents, and other co-residing grandparents or older kin. *Grandparents or other older kin (≥60 years of age) co-residing with family members younger than 18 years.

In the U.S., 34 million cases have been reported and 609,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to the CDC. In Arkansas, there have been more than 367,000 cumulative cases and 6,000+ people have died since the pandemic’s inception in mid-March 2020, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The ADH said the agency does not keep track of how many children 18 and younger have lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19.

The hidden pandemic of orphanhood is a global emergency, and we can ill afford to wait until tomorrow to act. Out of control COVID-19 epidemics abruptly and permanently alter the lives of the children who are left behind.

Tomorrow is too late for the child institutionalized in an orphanage, who will grow up profoundly damaged by the experience. We urgently need to identify the children behind these numbers and strengthen monitoring systems, so that every child can be given the support they need to thrive.”

Imperial College London, UK, Dr. Seth Flaxman, one of the study’s lead authors
Child at home during coronavirus. Getty Images.

Read full report here.

The Lancet’s role of funding source: The funders of the study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report.