UNICEF is committed to continuing to deliver assistance to children across the areas affected by COVID-19 and will continue to ensure children in need continue to receive humanitarian assistance. UNICEF's COVID-19 preparedness and response strategy are to reduce human-to-human transmission in affected countries and to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on children, youth and their care providers, especially for the most vulnerable.
Since the start of the outbreak in December 2019, coronavirus has spread to over 182 countries and territories, and has officially been declared a pandemic. In many countries, the COVID-19 outbreak is creating significant additional pressure on the already overburdened social service delivery systems, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of affected populations. For example, some 124 governments have already closed schools, resulting in over 1.2 billion learners going without access to education.
UNICEF will work across the globe to ensure children and families receive the supplies and information needed to reduce the impact of the pandemic. UNICEF's focus is on the prevention of new infections through public health education and outreach; the scale up of alternative communications channels to help provide education and child protection services; support to health systems to help boost supplies of key equipment; and most importantly to tackle misinformation that could harm children.
Enforcement measures to control the spread of the virus will disproportionally effect the most vulnerable. Loss of household incomes takes a toll on the financial capacity of parents and caregivers to access the basic services that are essential to meeting children's needs. By ensuring continuity of health, education and social services and addressing the secondary impacts of COVID-19, UNICEF and partners are mitigating the long-term effects of this global crisis.