Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

COVID-19 and Children in Urban Contexts

Wayne Shand

Global Alliance – Cities 4 Children



This evidence into action brief summarizes the state of research on the topic of urban children and COVID-19, and proposes ideas for action.

Across the world, public and political attention is firmly focused on recovery from COVID-19. But it is vital that we build back better. The pandemic has compounded problems caused by existing structural inequalities of poverty, inadequate housing and economic exclusion for those living in urban informal settlements in the global South – problems that have hit children particularly hard. With an end to the pandemic uncertain, this brief aims to provide some insights into the current consequences and risks for urban children and youth in terms of impact on health, income and education and the importance of safe play and public space. It highlights local solutions and good practice and demonstrates how, in the context of limited government support for the urban poor, grassroots organizations and collective community action have attempted to fill the gaps and used existing networks to support families affected by the pandemic. These experiences provide important lessons for partnership approaches to tackling child poverty that go beyond the pandemic to inform how collaboration can help address complex urban poverty challenges.

Policymakers should strengthen partnerships with NGOs and organized communities to improve access to healthcare and health education. Infant and early childhood immunization initiatives should be accelerated, prioritizing children living in informal urban settlements.

NGOs should support social and livelihood protection schemes, working with governments, communities and the private sector. Secure employment and trading rights in cities can also help to stabilize incomes for the lowest-paid workers.

NGOs should invest in targeted local education provision and better internet connectivity and access to digital devices to improve learning for children and youth in slum settlements. Local governments should use conditional cash transfers to remove financial barriers to education for children in poor households.

Children in cities need safe living environments and safe spaces for play. NGOs and governments should work collaboratively with communities and community-based organizations to improve urban design and environments.


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