COVID-19: 5 ways the world can come together to protect the most vulnerable
As Coronavirus spreads, we must work together to protect those most in need.
Around the world, our colleagues, partners and the communities where we work are having to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances caused by the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
There are few precedents to call on. But our experience of working in disasters and humanitarian crises, including the Ebola outbreak, means we know that the pandemic is likely to affect certain vulnerable groups more than others.
If governments, regional and global organisations and civil society work together, we can take steps to make sure the ongoing response is based on cooperation, information sharing and solidarity – and that it protects the people who are most in need.
1. Protecting girls and young women
We know that outbreaks of disease affect girls and women differently to boys and men.
The global response must prioritise the protection of girls and women from gender-based, sexual and intimate partner violence, as well as harmful practices such as forced marriage, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
2. Supporting children as their lives are disrupted
Although children’s health appears to be less impacted by COVID-19, the outbreak will deeply affect the environment in which children grow and develop.
Their education may be interrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by health and economic burdens, and they could be at greater risk of child labour.
Children in all parts of the world may also experience heightened levels of anxiety, fear and worry.
3. Listening to local communities, especially girls and women
It’s essential that authorities engage communities, including local leaders, families and caregivers, so they are part of the response to protect lives and prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
It’s especially important that the voices of all groups affected by the outbreak are heard. This includes strengthening the leadership and meaningful participation of girls and young women in all decision-making processes, to make sure their needs are met.
4. Reaching the most vulnerable people and communities
Every response to the crisis must emphasise the need for services, information and economic support to be available and accessible to the poorest and most vulnerable people.
Meeting the critical needs of low income countries and meeting the needs of extremely vulnerable groups, including homeless and displaced people and children, refugees, asylum seekers and others who are lacking family and community support will be essential.
5. Protecting people from discrimination and stigma
Decision-makers must emphasise a zero tolerance approach to any form of discrimination against any groups in society, including on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexual identity, migratory status or national origin.
This includes unfair denial of health care and material support, which directly violate human rights and are likely to fuel the spread of the virus.
Our work around the world
In the communities where we work, we’ll continue to provide the most effective support we can for our staff, partners and the children whose lives will change as a result of this health crisis.
We’ll continue to share public health information and implement effective hygiene practices, including the installation of additional hand-washing facilities, to keep children healthy. We’ll work with teachers, parents, health care providers and partners to ensure children get the support they need. And we’ll intensify support and preventive measures in refugee and displaced camps where the healthcare support is most fragile.
We’ll also keep you updated on the impact COVID-19 is having on our child sponsorship programme.
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We have produced a helpful guide designed to help parents and guardians during this pandemic.