To reach their full potential, children need high-quality healthcare and services especially during life’s early moments but recent current events have threatened children’s basic care. In late 2021, UNICEF informed that children were experiencing one of the worst crises in history because the COVID-19 led to numerous setbacks in poverty reduction, access to healthcare, education and nutrition, child protection and mental wellbeing.
“Nearly two years into the pandemic, the widespread effects of COVID-19 continue to worsen, as poverty rises, inequality entrenches and children's rights are compromised at levels never seen before,” said UNICEF, highlighting that it will take up to seven or eight years to recover to regain what was lost during the pandemic.
In Mexico, the pandemic caused a serious neglect in the coverage of basic supplies for the full guarantee of the right to health of Mexican children, according to the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico (REDIM). Children and adolescents were excluded from the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plan and suffered from delays in the application of other vaccines, including those for tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, according to data from the EPI Country Report.
The country’s children also contended with a shortage of oncological drugs. The lack of provision of medicines and specialized care cost 2,077 children and adolescents between 0 and 17 years of age (897 women and 1,180 men) their lives as a result of tumors in 2020, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
Moreover, Mexico was the country where most children faced the death of one or both parents (178,000) or their primary or secondary caregivers (275,800), according to The Lancet.
Prior to the pandemic, Mexico’s epidemiological profile for children showed that largest challenge was malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The country has numerous cases of both undernutrition and overnutrition (overweight, obesity). Globally, Mexico ranks first in childhood obesity, a problem that is present not only in childhood and adolescence, but also in the preschool age population. According to INEGI’s 2020 data, just over a fifth (22 percent) of girls and boys under five years of age were at risk of being overweight in 2018. Of the population aged five to 11 years old, 18 percent are overweight and this percentage increases with age: 21 percent of young men between 12 and 19 years were overweight, as were 27 percent of young women of the same age.
Save the Children estimates that in Mexico 2.8 percent of children under five years of age are underweight, 13.6 percent have short stature and 1.6 percent have acute malnutrition. UNICEF also indicates that 59 percent of the children had minimal diversity in their diet and 18 percent did not consume fruits or vegetables. The country’s indigenous population, the most impacted by child poverty, registers higher rates of child malnutrition compared to the rest of the population.
To address the current and historic health burdens of children, REDIM recommends reorienting the attention and containment of COVID-19 to a systemic approach based on human rights and the global nature of the pandemic. The organization also calls for an increase in public investment to curb the negative impact of the pandemic, strengthen public health systems and community prevention and reduce the impact of the food crisis.