DHAKA, Bangladesh

Some 40 million children globally, over half of them from South Asia, have missed out on early childhood education due to the coronavirus outbreak, a UN report said.

“At least 40 million children worldwide, of which nearly 22 million are from South Asia, have missed out on early childhood education in their critical pre-school year as COVID-19 shuttered childcare and early education facilities,” UNICEF said in a new research briefing on Wednesday.

Describing early childhood education as foundational in helping children reach their full potential, the findings warn of jeopardizing the futures of millions of children specially in South Asia in case of any failure to act accordingly for the proper care of these children.

“Children are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia. Prolonged school closure and limited access to distant learning has deprived children of their universal right to education,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for South Asia.

Referring to the most critical condition of the low and mid-income countries, the findings added: “In 54 low- and middle-income countries with recent data, around 40 per cent of children aged between 3 and 5 years old were not receiving social-emotional and cognitive stimulation from any adult in their households.”

To get rid of the crisis the research recommends for parental leave for all parents so that there is no gap between the end of parental leave and the start of affordable childcare; flexible work arrangements that address the needs of working parents; investment in the non-family childcare workforce including training and social protection systems including cash transfers that reach families working in non-formal employment.

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