an empty clasroom with a mask hanging off a chair

Generation COVID

As every year, Human Rights Day takes place on 10 December. This day commemorates the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This year, 2021, the theme of Human Rights Day is “EQUALITY – Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights.” It draws attention to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on equal opportunities for young people in terms of their future jobs, social protection, and rights. Young people have felt and will continue to feel the multi-layered effects of this health crisis and the measures taken particularly severely. School closures and restrictions on social contact, for example, are carried out during the most formative years of young people’s lives and influence their development severely. This blog post will look further into three factors connected to the pandemic which impact the “Generation COVID” (UN 2021).

The so-called “Generation COVID” is particularly affected by rising inequality as well as poverty, both effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (UN 2021). Young people worldwide are exposed to similar situations in the health crisis and government measures such as lockdowns and curfews but feel its effects to different degrees. In particular, the disruption of education and the closure of schools, but also limited access to health care, medicines, and medical supplies, are affecting the development of this generation (Edwards 2020). Furthermore, domestic violence is on the rise, among others caused by school closures and lockdowns. According to Unicef, this particularly affects the most vulnerable communities and households in our society (Fore n.d.). In addition, the health crisis and the measures taken affect the mental health of the “Generation COVID “. More generally: children are in a sense in limbo, wanting to realize their dreams but not knowing what their future holds. They are deprived of their social development opportunities as their lives come to a standstill (Hafstad & Augusti 2021).


More than 1.6 billion young people worldwide have faced school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Save the Children’s estimates, one of the consequences is that at least 10 million children will not return to school, predominantly girls and disadvantaged children (Save the Children 2020). In addition, distance learning has a significant impact on young people’s learning progress. According to a study by Global Education Monitoring, 8 out of 10 children report that they learn little or nothing during periods of distance learning. The number is even higher for children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, displaced children, and girls. Access to electronic devices, internet access, and lack of support from teachers and guardians also play an essential role (Global Education Monitoring Report 2020).

Health & nutrition

The COVID 19 pandemic also significantly impacts children’s health care. Due to the prioritization of COVID-related health care, a large proportion of children are suffering from preventable causes. According to a survey by Save the Children, conducted in 37 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin and North America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, 89% of children surveyed reported limited access to health care and medical supplies due to COVID-19. In addition, malnutrition plays a central role in the regions considered in the survey when talking about the impact of the pandemic on young people: Due to the combination of high food costs and a lower economic status caused by the pandemic, many families are struggling even more to feed themselves with meat, dairy products, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. It is expected that the health crisis will increase the malnutrition rate of children in the long term (Save the Children 2020).

Domestic violence 

As another threat, rates of domestic violence have increased during the pandemic, affecting many households, among them the most vulnerable communities (Fore n.d.). Even before the pandemic outbreak, one billion children between the ages of 2-17 were affected by physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect (World Health Organization 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the potential for conflict in households and put children at increased risk of domestic violence. Girls, children from families with low socioeconomic status, children living with disabilities, and those in fragile contexts are particularly affected. Governmental measures such as school closures, lockdowns, and curfew restrictions lead to more time spent in confined spaces and increase the potential of conflict in many households (Edwards 2020). Furthermore, the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy and the resulting loss of income has had an impact on families. Job losses and financial problems pose challenges to families, resulting in a disruption in family life (Edwards 2020).

These are just three of the myriad factors that influence the “Generation COVID” and show the extent to which young people are affected by the inequality that continues to rise as a result of this health crisis. Children are among the most vulnerable in society, and research must consider them in impact assessments. In particular, young people from disadvantaged households and low-income families need to be supported to enable equal opportunities for children. Today, on Human Rights Day, it is crucial to raise awareness of the detrimental impact that the pandemic has on the future of the so-called “Generation COVID” by further increasing inequality globally and taking decisive action to protect the future of this generation.

Author: Katharina Günther



UN (2021). Human Rights Day 10 December. (Last access: 30/11/21)

Edwards, J. (2020). Protect a Generation: The impact of COVID-19 on children’s lives. Save the Children. (Last access: 02/12/21)

Fore, H. H. (n.a.). Generation COVID: Respond. Recover. Reimagine. A visual journey of COVID-19 and children around the world. Unicef. (Last access: 30/11/21)

Hafstad, G.S. & Augusti, E.-M. (2021). A lost generation? COVID-19 and adolescent mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(8), p. 640-641.

Save the Children (2020). Save our Education: Protect every child’s right to learn in the COVID-19 response and recovery. (Last access: 30/11/21)

Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report (2020). World Education Blog, Distance Learning Denied. (Last access: 30/11/21)

World Health Organization (2020). Violence Against Children Factsheet. (Last access: 30/11/21)