“Churches can help children with prayer, counseling and spiritual care”, say the World Evangelical Alliance and the Christian association World Without Orphans.
Two years after the beginning of the pandemic, the consequences are still devastating in all areas.
Children have been some of the hardest hit by the deadly losses of the pandemic, specially “from April to October, 2021, when the number of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver death is estimated to have increased by 90%”, says a recent study from the medical journal The Lancet.
“We estimate that for every person reported to have died of the COVID-19, one child is left orphaned or loses a caregiver. That is the equivalent of one child every six seconds facing a heightened risk of lifelong adversity unless given appropriate support in time”, explains Dr. Susan Hillis, lead author of the study and a member of the leadership team of the Christian association World Without Orphans (WWO).
The study estimates that globally over 7 million children have lost a parent or caregiver due to coronavirus. “Orphanhood does not come in waves; it is a steadily rising slope, whose summit is still out of sight”, added Hillis.
Furthermore, the report shows that almost two-thirds of the children affected are 10- 17-year-olds, and “in each age group and region, the prevalence of paternal orphanhood exceeded that of maternal orphanhood” ( three out of four cases).
Hillis calls on governments “to support orphaned children through a three-pronged approach focusing on preventing the death of caregivers, preparing families that are safe and nurturing to support affected children through kinship care, foster care and adoption, and employing strategies to protect children from the risks of poverty, childhood adversity and violence”.
Amid this situation, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), along with WWO, has released a statement, calling for global and national responses which put affected children as a priority, and stressing “the unique role local churches can play in responding to the growing crisis”.
“Local churches are uniquely positioned to respond to the specific issues in their neighborhoods and the wider communities. Following the Biblical call to care for widows and orphans, churches and believers can model the heart of the Father God who is a father to the fatherless and who sets the lonely in families”.
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Goropevsek, coordinator of WEA’s Children Network, encourages church leaders “to read the report and prayerfully consider how the pandemic has affected families and children in their own context and what support they can offer”.
She calls on them to “raise awareness on this issue and mobilize their congregations”, because “although it may feel overwhelming, when church members come alongside those affected, they can help families and children with prayer, counseling and spiritual care, finding practical solutions to their immediate needs”.
The Secretary General of the WEA, Thomas Schirrmacher, points out that believers “can be the one for the one and the voice for the many by calling on our national governments, to ensure that every child can grow up in a family environment”.
“We can also be there by identifying who the children are, so they do not remain hidden: we can talk to them and listen to their story and what they have gone through”, added Schirrmacher.
“Whenever we go to a memorial service or hear about someone who has passed away, are we as followers of Christ asking who these children are and how they are doing?”, the WEA Secretary General asked in the statement.
Schirrmacher urges evangelicals “to hear those children and show them that someone cares about their loss, and point them to the Lord’s all-sufficient comfort. We can be there to embrace the one child whose world has fallen apart”.