Well-being of poor children deteriorated over pandemic - survey

A decline in the educational, psychological and nutritional status of poor children is shown to be a result of hunger, distress, lack of computers and reduced ability to study.

Afikim CEO Moshe Lefkowitz and co-founder of Run4Afikim Gila Rockman with the participants of the race at a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, 2019.  (photo credit: COURTESY AFIKIM)
Afikim CEO Moshe Lefkowitz and co-founder of Run4Afikim Gila Rockman with the participants of the race at a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, 2019.
(photo credit: COURTESY AFIKIM)
Seventy five percent of the children at risk surveyed are experiencing a decline in their ability to study. About half (49%) reported psychological distress. And 45% reported experiencing acute hunger more often than before the coronavirus period.
The survey was conducted by the Afikim Family Enrichment Association in November and December 2020 to evaluate the effects of the pandemic on underprivileged children. Since 2007, Afikim has operated 16 learning centers and after-school programs across Israel, serving more than 550 children at risk.
Although most have some internet access at home, 62% of the children indicated that they do not regularly participate in school and that a third of them (35%) do not have enough computers at home to participate in Zoom classes. Seventy-three percent said they need technical help to use Zoom, but about half of them (52%) said there was no one at home who could provide it due to reasons such as parents’ language difficulties, work responsibilities, or lack of computer skills.
Seventy percent of the children experienced a decrease in overall functioning, the survey also found.
Twenty five percent of the children are eating more than usual and 20% even took food home, the coordinators at the after-school programs reported, likely reflecting a decline in their families’ finances during the coronavirus period.
Adding to the psychological stress, over half of the children (56%) said they felt lonely during the lockdowns and 80% felt isolated from their classmates, a phenomenon that has also been reported among the country’s youth as a whole. Some children spoke of an absence of calm and of heightened tensions at home.
The survey was conducted using questionnaires filled out separately by both the Afikim coordinators and the children (with the assistance of coordinators). The children were aged 6-13, with 54.5% girls and 45.5% boys.
“This survey has raised important insights into the impact of the corona period on children at risk," said Afikim CEO Moshe Lefkowitz.
"Teaching through Zoom has resulted in a decrease in learning ability in a significant number of children; many children experienced mental distress and hunger. In these days of uncertainty, those most affected are children from families on social assistance, who, even in normal times, do not have things easy. We will do everything we can to continue lending them a helping hand so that they can succeed in the race of life," he explained.
Run4Afikim — an annual, 36-hour fundraising relay run, will take place starting in Jerusalem on March 10 and finishing in Eilat on March 12. Small teams of runners will continue non-stop, covering the full 370 km. (230 miles) distance. Afikim’s main fundraising event of the year, the race was originally set for January but was rescheduled due to the pandemic.
The relay race is in memory of Gila’s brother, Ariel Goldsmith of blessed memory, who was a man of great benevolence and chessed and always looked out for others. Afikim was very close to his heart as he worked tirelessly each year to help to raise funds and awareness for families and children at risk. He ran every year and this year his family and many friends will be running in his memory.
“Especially during this challenging time, we have a hugely important mission, to provide assistance and to foster the children’s belief in their own abilities," said Gila Rockman, one of the leaders of Afikim and co-founder of Run4Afikim. "We are working hard to raise donations to continue supporting the children through the annual Afikim Race.”