Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
The virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads.
Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching your face.
Practice physical distancing where possible, avoid unnecessary travel and stay away from large groups of people. Stay at home if you feel unwell.
Find out more via the World Health Organization.
Disease outbreaks affect girls and boys, women and men differently. While children’s health appears less impacted by COVID-19 than older adults, children’s education will be interrupted, protective structures disrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by health and economic burdens.
Children are also at risk of psychological distress at times of crisis as well as increased risk of violence, abuse exploitation and neglect.
- Education and coronavirus
Groups that are already disadvantaged, such as adolescent girls, experience the greatest risks and impacts when their education is interrupted. Governments must take steps to mitigate the effects of school closures on girls, boys and their families by ensuring education continues.
Schools should be supported to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, with attention paid to protecting students and staff from discrimination and stigma associated with infection.
Governments must ensure education response plans are gender and age responsive and reflect the lived realities of girls, children with disabilities and other marginalised children throughout the life cycle of education.
- Child protection and coronavirus
Disease outbreaks and the measures taken to control them can increase children’s risk of violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect. Essential ongoing support and case management for vulnerable and at-risk children may be blocked by social distancing measures.
National and local responses must assess and address those risks, including in quarantine situations and in communities facing restrictions on movement.
It is vital that governments prioritise services preventing and responding to violence and deem them essential services.
Disease outbreaks increase girls’ and young women’s duties caring for elderly and ill family members, as well as for siblings who are out of school.
Girls, especially those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak.
- Gender-based violence and coronavirus
Economic stress on families due to the outbreak can put children, and in particular girls, at greater risk of exploitation, child labour and gender-based violence. Quarantine measures should be accompanied by support for affected households.
Governments must include measures to address gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection in COVID-19 response and recovery plans and ensure that plans are gender and age responsive and multi-sectoral.
Girl- and youth-led groups should be safely and meaningfully involved in the development of plans, and plans should assess and monitor the risk and prevalence of violence.
- Health services
Evidence from past epidemics indicates resources are often diverted from routine health services. This further reduces the already limited access of many girls and young women to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as maternal, new-born and child health services.
The COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to restrict or rollback girls and women’s access to essential sexual and reproductive health rights, which must continue to be prioritised, funded and recognised as lifesaving.
- Economic well-being
Economic challenges during the outbreak pose a serious threat to young women’s work and business activity and expose them to increased risk of exploitation and abuse. Girls and young women facing severe economic shocks are more likely to take on high-risk work for their economic survival.
Responses to the outbreak must protect and support young women’s economic empowerment and recognise the additional burden of unpaid and domestic work on women and girls.
The health and wellbeing of care workers, the majority of them women, must be a core part of the response to the outbreak.
It is critical that COVID-19 vaccines are fairly distributed around the world, and that low and middle-income countries don’t miss out.
Failing to do so would be a catastrophic moral failure and could lead to a profound setback to girls’ and women’s rights. A prolonged pandemic will continue to exacerbate growing gender, social and economic inequalities, with devastating consequences for those most at risk.
Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines must be treated as a global public good, and equal access seen as a fundamental human right. They need to be fairly distributed on the basis of need, and not ability to pay. Without this equitable distribution, as wealthy countries protect themselves from the worst effects of the virus, poorer countries will be left vulnerable to new outbreaks, worsening existing gender inequalities and leaving girls and women even further behind.
It is the responsibility of all leaders to ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world. We urge richer countries to play their part by avoiding “vaccine nationalism” and resisting actions such as buying up the majority of the world’s vaccine supply, which will reduce access elsewhere.
We are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak by adapting our current programmes and implementing new remote approaches to ensure we address the immediate and medium impacts of the outbreak.
Women and girls suffer most during emergencies, so we’re striving to ensure their needs are addressed and not left behind.
Our response is tailored towards the most vulnerable communities in which we already work.
We are focusing on the following areas:
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
We are supporting governments by providing disinfectant to sanitise public spaces
In addition, we will push to maintain essential services for adolescent girls and young women, such as sexual and reproductive health services, and maternal, newborn and child health services.
We are providing support to local health authorities and training community health workers. We are working with local government and health services to ensure that people living with HIV have continued access to treatment.
We are training teachers and key workers on the prevention/control of COVID-19 and empowering parents, caregivers and the wider community to support the learning, development and wellbeing of children when schools close including providing different teaching aids to households to be used as a model and to initiate parents to prepare their own teaching aids for their children in as well as supporting radio teaching.
We are preparing to support schools, teachers & children when schools reopen.
We are working closely with the water, sanitation and hygiene sector to ensure hygiene in schools. This includes obtaining and distributing hygiene and wash kits, and ensuring children have access to handwashing facilities and clean toilets.
Essential activities, like school-feeding programmes which support vulnerable groups including children with disabilities, will continue.
- Child protection
We are raising awareness of the crisis and the child protection risks of lockdown including sexual and gender-based violence via different channels (TV, internet, radio, posters etc.) and providing targeted support to vulnerable households.
We will ensure there is a clear system of referral for children in need of special support, including psychosocial counselling. We will work to identify and support vulnerable children, e.g. children without family, children with health problems and children living or working on the streets.
We are continuing with remote case management where access is not available to ensure children are receiving social service support, and providing training to communities and youth groups on child protection & child safeguarding.
Counselling to families in remote areas with children at risk of school dropout or early marriage has been conducted by community-based child protection boards with support from Plan International.
- Cash transfers and food assistance
Where families have lost their income, we are supporting with cash distributions to ensure essential needs are met during lockdown
Where access to food is unaffordable or inaccessible we are providing food assistance
- Community engagement
We are working with communities and traditional and religious leaders to adapt traditional practices to avoid transmission of COVID-19 and training those well placed to care for vulnerable children in case of an outbreak.
We are ensuring communities know how to feedback on services provided by Plan International through the establishment of child-friendly feedback mechanisms so voices are heard and programmes are adapted according to the feedback.
- Refugees and internally displaced people
We are particularly concerned for people living in refugee and displacement camps and settlements who are vulnerable to COVID-19 for a number of reasons including overcrowding, lack of nutrition and water, poor health facilities and health status. We are identifying vulnerable children and ensuring there are safe care arrangements for them as well as access to psychosocial support.
We are increasing access to water and soap in refugee and displaced camps and providing hygiene and menstrual health kits. We will ensure families have access to basic needs such as food, water and hygiene equipment if they need to isolate.
The worst health crisis of a generation is challenging the world. We are extremely concerned about how COVID-19 will affect the most vulnerable populations. Reduced infrastructure and healthcare provisions make the virus harder to control. This, in turn, makes the pandemic harder to control.
We must do all we can to ensure the world’s most vulnerable children and young people get the support they need during this crisis. To do this we need your help.
Plan International is raising €100 million to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable children and their communities from the impacts of COVID-19.
Our response, covering more than 50 countries, is focused on assisting children - particularly girls, who are disproportionately affected by the crisis.