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COVID-19: Global community must step up in support of vulnerable children

09 Apr 2020

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Credit: UNICEF/Mohamed

Amid the global community’s focus on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stressed that coordination is urgently needed to prevent the health crisis from becoming a child-rights crisis, especially for children living in humanitarian emergencies.

In a statement released today, UNICEF notes that 99 per cent – or 2.34 billion – of the world’s children live with some form of pandemic-related movement restrictions due to COVID-19, while 60 per cent live in countries with full or partial lockdowns.

“We know that, in any crisis, the young and the most vulnerable suffer disproportionately. This pandemic is no different,” UNICEF said. “We need to act now to strengthen health systems, as well as other child-focused social services, to keep track with global development priorities, in every country around the world.”

In response, UNICEF has launched a global agenda for action to protect the most vulnerable children from harm. The agenda has six pillars: 1) keep children healthy; 2) reach vulnerable children with water, sanitation and hygiene; 3) keep children learning; 4) support families to cover their needs and care for their children; 5) protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse; and 6) protect refugee and migrant children, and those affected by conflict.

As one component of the agenda, the agency has stressed the importance of proper handwashing and hygiene practices, noting that globally, 40 per cent of the population – 3 billion people – still lack a basic handwashing facility with soap and water available at home. That figure is as high as nearly three quarters of the population in least developed countries.

Of equal importance is focusing efforts, through the UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan and Fund, on helping children already living through humanitarian crises during the COVID-19 response, UNICEF said. Noting that 2020 was already set to be a year with more people than ever before in need of humanitarian assistance, the agency said that the vulnerabilities of children in crisis-affected countries will persist and likely be further compounded by the consequences of the pandemic, exposing them to a double jeopardy.