The amount of time Melbourne's children have been confined to home due to the pandemic has exceeded the global average by 67 days, with a leading welfare group warning of strains on their mental health.
Analysis by Save the Children using data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government ResponseTracker reveals children around the world have lived under required and recommended lockdowns for an average of six months, or 184 days since early 2020.
In Melbourne, they've endured 251 days of lockdown, compared to the average for Australian children of 60 days.
Children in Venezuela have faced one of the longest periods at home, with intermittent lockdowns keeping them inside for up to 491 days or 16 months.
Kids in Lebanon have had to stay home for 418 days and in Zimbabwe, for nearly nine months this year alone.
Save the Children is marking World Mental Health day by warning extended lockdowns are taking a devastating toll by putting kids at increased risk of emotional distress, loneliness and abuse, as well as depriving them of outdoor play and access to mental health support.
The organisation says for many Australian children the pandemic is compounding significant existing challenges.
This includes children who experienced the 2019-20 bushfires and are still only in the early stages of psychological recovery.
It also takes in those already struggling to engage with learning or experiencing socio-economic disadvantage or other complex circumstances.
"Children are resilient but they are also uniquely vulnerable in disasters like the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic," Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said.
"They have specific needs and require specialist support to recover.
"Schools are ideal settings for providing this support. Yet school systems are already heavily overburdened. Specialist programs are urgently needed to complement existing efforts."
Mr Ronalds says "Australia's high rates of student disengagement are a national crisis that COVID-19 threatens to turn into a generational rupture".
He's calling for "a coherent national strategy, along with aligned state and territory strategies, to keep students engaged with learning".
A survey of over 13,000 children in 46 countries carried out by Save the Children last year found 83 per cent reported an increase in negative feelings due to the pandemic.
This was far higher where schools had been closed for 17 to 19 weeks.
Since then, the situation for many has worsened as countries have battled third or fourth waves of the virus, lockdowns have continued and schools in some countries have been closed for over 18 months.
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Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)
Australian Associated Press
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