The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder of our shared humanity, common interests and joint responsibilities. No country is immune, and no country can defeat a virus that knows no borders by acting alone.
Save the Children has mobilized a pandemic response that is unlike any other humanitarian mission in our 101 years of alleviating the needs of vulnerable and marginalized children. We have seen the coronavirus overwhelm health systems of some of the world’s wealthiest countries. It is now vital that the world’s poorest countries, with the most limited health systems, put in place the defenses needed to save lives. Those defenses include the provision of protective equipment, training health workers and community education.
But this is a crisis that goes beyond health systems. Economic recession and social disruptions have already inflicted an immense toll in countries with strong safety nets. The risks now facing vulnerable populations in poorer countries with high levels of poverty and weak safety nets are even greater. That’s why Save the Children is urgently working to extend programs aimed at protecting nutrition and countering poverty.
School closures have left an estimated 1.5 billion children out of classrooms. As we learned with Ebola, once schooling is interrupted, there is a real risk that children won’t return. Adolescent girls may be forced into early marriage. As poverty deepens, children may be drawn into labor markets to make ends meet. We know from the bitter experience of past crises that when recession and rising food prices kick in, children will be hurt by rising levels of poverty, poor health and malnutrition. Those least able to cope will be hit first and hardest.
Save the Children is doing everything in our power to protect and support children and their families everywhere we work. Our aim now is to extend the reach and strengthen the impact of our programs in the poorest and most at-risk countries, focusing on four areas:
- Preventing and managing the spread of the pandemic
- Helping children learn, stay safe, and return to school
- Supporting family survival and food security through safety nets
- Keeping children, families and communities safe
The COVID-19 crisis is global, and so is our response. Since the pandemic is due to hit all 120 countries where we work, we will respond in all of them. In line with the World Health Organization’s planning scenarios, we anticipate that all places where we are present will experience a sever outbreak during the next 12-18 months. We are working to ensure that all our programs are ready to respond, particularly in those countries where children and families are the most vulnerable to the pandemic.
We are focused on children in countries where the gaps for children are the greatest. These are the girls and boys in the world’s most difficult humanitarian settings, where the impact will be disproportionate – including conflict zones, refugee camps, fragile states and places experiencing natural disasters. We are focused on the most vulnerable populations of children in low-, medium- and high-income contexts, where the harshest inequalities exist. In some of the world’s most wealthy countries, we are bringing our long experience in supporting children during emergencies in difficult places and adapting that to this unprecedented crisis.
Our dedicated team of international health experts is working with governments and aligning our plans to ensure that all of our programs are able to respond. They are working with the World Health Organization and other partners; we are also helping to guide other organizations on how to respond to a disease outbreak within a humanitarian crisis.
Thank you for continuing to support all of our work for children around the world as we continue to adapt to these new and changing times.