May 21, 2020 / 11:54 AM / 7 days ago

One in six Spanish children depressed during pandemic: survey

FILE PHOTO: A man and his son take a walk in the empty La Bola street, after restrictions were partially lifted for children for the first time in six weeks, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ronda, Spain, April 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

MADRID (Reuters) - Nearly one in six Spanish children have felt regularly depressed during the coronavirus crisis, with those from poorer backgrounds suffering worse, a charity said on Thursday.

Spain has had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, including keeping children behind doors for weeks, to curb the outbreak which has killed nearly 28,000 people.

Save the Children said its survey from April showed that while lockdown was enabling many families to enjoy more time together, still 17% of children felt depressed often or daily and new economic hardships were widening inequalities.

In the most needy families, 32.3% of children struggled to sleep while 30.1% feared the COVID-19 disease - almost a third more than in less vulnerable households. Those from poorer backgrounds also cried more, according to the survey of more than 1,800 interviews with children and families.

Save the Children said one out of four vulnerable families have suffered job losses or reduced income, heaping tension and uncertainty on children. In some cases, families have had to share housing with strangers to cut the cost of rent.

“Being isolated in very tiny flats with people who are not part of your family is actually a risk because these families are facing two types of stress. They’ve lost their jobs as they cannot work and they are isolated in very tiny places,” Andres Conde, head of Save the Children in Spain, told Reuters.

The charity urged authorities to support poor families in covering their basic needs.

The Spanish government has repeatedly said it will not leave anyone behind and is planning to pay a basic monthly income to about a million of the poorest households.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid and Lena Masri in London; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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