WEDNESDAY, July 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) — More than 1 million children aged younger than 18 years in 21 countries experienced the death of a primary caregiver from COVID-19, according to a study published online July 20 in The Lancet.

Susan D. Hillis, Ph.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues modeled minimum estimates and rates of COVID-19-associated deaths of primary or secondary caregivers for children younger than 18 years in 21 countries. Primary caregivers included parents and custodial grandparents, while co-residing grandparents or older kin (aged 60 to 84 years) were secondary caregivers.

The researchers estimated that 1,134,000 children experienced the death of primary caregivers globally from March 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021. Furthermore, 1,562,000 children experienced the death of one or more primary or secondary caregivers. Countries with primary caregiver death rates of at least one per 1,000 children included Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Iran, the United States of America, Argentina, and Russia (10.2, 5.1, 3.5, 2.4, 2.3, 1.7, 1.5, 1.1, and 1.0, respectively). The numbers of children orphaned exceeded deaths among the 15- to 50-year-old age group. More children had deceased fathers than deceased mothers (twofold to fivefold).

“Now is the time to focus on a group that will continue to grow as the pandemic progresses: the more than 1 million children who have lost a parent and another half a million children who have lost a grandparent caregiver living in their own home,” the authors write. “These unnamed children are the tragic overlooked consequence of the millions of pandemic dead.”

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