Save the Children warns that the global coronavirus pandemic threatens to devastate children’s health and education, and cause unprecedented protection needs. In the largest appeal in its 100-year-history, the agency is aiming to raise $100 million to urgently keep children and their families safe during the global COVID-19 outbreak, the most serious threat to global health and security in modern times.
Since the start of the outbreak, Save the Children has responded to the needs of communities in countries impacted by COVID-19, including in China, the U.S. and across Europe. The coronavirus pandemic is now accelerating across lower-income countries, with new cases expected to reach 10,000 across Africa this week. The international humanitarian organization has warned that failure to act now in countries across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could result in the loss of three million people’s lives.
“We have all watched in horror as the COVID-19 outbreak has turned lives, at home and overseas, upside down,” said Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of Save the Children. “The pandemic is now spreading across the world’s poorest countries, further crippling fragile health systems where children are already missing out on life-saving treatment for malaria, pneumonia, and malnutrition. It will leave many children without caregivers, out of school and in danger,” added Soeripto. “We only have a matter of weeks to take swift action that will determine how many lives we can save.”
With the funds raised, Save the Children will strengthen programs so they can withstand the impact of the virus and protect the most vulnerable children in countries hardest hit by the virus. This includes children living in poverty, refugees, displaced families, communities in conflict and crisis areas, and girls. This involves increasing support for national health systems, standing by families facing loss of earnings caused by isolation measures, supporting unaccompanied children, and ensuring children can continue to get an education.
With confirmed cases in Syria and Afghanistan and looming outbreaks in Yemen and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, concerns are growing over the spread of the virus across fragile communities, which are ill-prepared to manage an outbreak because of weaker health systems, food, and economic insecurity or conflict.
Ali*, 14, is from a village in southern Idlib in Syria. He and his family were displaced more than two months ago when their village was hit.
“We’re used to the war now,” said Ali.* “Even when it hits nearby, we hide in caves. But with this virus, we can’t hide.”
Save the Children warns the outbreak will profoundly impact the youngest generation. Already, an estimated 1.5 billion children and students are out of school with their chances of return diminishing each day closures continue. In many of the world’s poorest communities, as poverty deepens, children may be forced to work and adolescent girls forced into early marriage. Unsupervised children are at increased protection risks. Children who face domestic violence and abuse now face prolonged periods at home, with reduced access to support services.
Over the past weeks, Save the Children has started ramping up its existing programs worldwide. In the Rohingya refugee camps, host communities and other districts in Bangladesh, for example, the agency is delivering critical supplies to health workers and restoring hygiene facilities. While additionally providing cash support to low-income households, and providing families with information on how to protect themselves from the virus.
In Yemen, Save the Children is working in communities to raise awareness on prevention measures such as handwashing and hygiene. The agency has recently trained over 80 volunteers and 20 health workers to disseminate information locally into communities and health facilities.
Worldwide, Save the Children works with half-a-million community health workers in 44 countries to deliver vital health services. The agency aims to support them in recognizing symptoms and preventing COVID-19, and to train another 100,000 in the coming six months. It will work with local communities to deliver training and protective equipment so that prevention measures can increase, and cases can be identified early, referred for treatment and where possible, isolated.
“This crisis will test us like we have not been tested before,” continued Soeripto. “As the world shuts down borders and fragile healthcare systems buckle under the pressure of the pandemic, preparedness, and efforts to slow the infection rate will mean the difference between life and death.
“Families may not have access to healthcare, clean water, and may suffer language or literacy barriers. We must ensure they have the support and information they need to protect themselves. Children in the most deprived and marginalized communities play a more vital role than ever in reducing the rate of transmission. In the poorest communities, they may be caring for younger children or adults, or be the only one in the family that can read or access information.