Children, especially disadvantaged children in poor countries, were expected to be among the “biggest victims” of the Covid pandemic. Economic burdens, decreased nutritious foods, reduced medical care, school closures, and ill-health or death of family members were predicted to increase child undernutrition and developmental delays, and diminish home child-rearing quality.
A planned nutrition intervention could not be implemented due to Covid restrictions. However, three surveys (pre-Covid [December 2019], July 2021, and September 2021) in 280 Nepali households (309 parent-dyads, 368 children, 6–66 months old) collected demographics, child anthropometry and development (Ages and Stages Questionnaire-3 [ASQ-3]), and home child-rearing quality (caregiver engagement, learning resources, adult supervision [UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey]). Mixed-effect regression models adjusted for household (wealth, maternal education) and child factors (age, gender) and survey round.
Height, mid-upper-arm circumference, and head circumference measurements improved over time. The total ASQ-3 score did not change: Communication scores increased while fine motor and personal-social scores declined. Girls’ growth and development worsened more than boys. Caregiver engagement (especially mothers’) generally declined, but learning resource availability increased. More children were left unsupervised at Round 2 than Round 1 or 3.
In this sample, some aspects of child growth, development, and home child-rearing quality improved while others declined. Better understanding of these changes in child well-being and the family environment during the pandemic could provide insight on how to protect children during future crises.