Pandemic has affected 'extraordinary' number of children, researcher tells David Muir

Muir meets some of the children who lost parents to COVID-19

May 12, 2022, 6:33 PM

Dr. Susan Hillis, who has spent years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is the lead author of several reports on Covid-related orphanhood and caregiver death, spoke recently about the devastating toll of the pandemic with ABC News' David Muir, the anchor of "World News Tonight."

The Orphans of COVID
Hulu

The Orphans of COVID

David Muir reports on the more than 250,000 children who have lost parents or caregivers to COVID-19 -- their challenges, their triumphs, and the way they keep the memories alive.

“In the United States, for every four COVID deaths, we have one child left behind, orphaned of their parent or grandparent, caregiver who provided for their needs and nurture,” said Hillis who has a PhD in epidemiology.

Her recent study published in The Lancet in February 2022 includes a real-time Covid orphanhood calculator showing the global impact of the pandemic.

PHOTO: ABC News' David Muir speaks with Dr. Susan Hillis about the devastating toll that the Covid pandemic had on children across the U.S.
ABC News' David Muir speaks with Dr. Susan Hillis about the devastating toll that the Covid pandemic had on children across the U.S.
ABC

The research was led by the CDC, in collaboration with Harvard, Oxford, Imperial College, USAID, the World Bank, and World Health Organization.

According to the latest data, the number of children globally affected by orphanhood and caregiver death has now surpassed 10 million children -- and more than 250,000 children have now lost a parent or caregiver in the U.S.

“It is an extraordinary number of children. That is why, we cannot in good conscience continue to ignore them,” Hillis told Muir.

The February report also compared the number of children whose parents or caregivers died in the first 14 months of the pandemic, 2.7 million children, to those affected in the next six months -- and found the number nearly doubled, reaching 5.2 million by October 2021.

PHOTO: Cornelia JaRose Hollitoppa Bell's parents -- Mindy and Craig -- died three months apart in 2020, before vaccines were ready. The 7-year-old now lives with her aunt on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi.
Cornelia JaRose Hollitoppa Bell's parents -- Mindy and Craig -- died three months apart in 2020, before vaccines were ready. The 7-year-old now lives with her aunt on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi.
ABC

The study also shows that children whose parents or caregivers have died are mostly adolescents who have lost their fathers.

The research recommends that care for children must be integrated into every nation's Covid response plan.

“There is not nearly enough being done, and that's why it's so important that all of us begin to ask these questions,” Hillis said, talking about the urgent need to find support for the children impacted by orphanhood.

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