Coronavirus is an infectious disease caused by the COVID-19 virus.
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 social distancing where possible and self-isolate if you start to show symptoms such as: fever, tiredness, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, aches and pains.
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
Out of the total population of students enrolled in education globally, UNESCO estimates that over 89% are currently out of school because of COVID-19 closures. This represents 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university, including nearly 743 million girls. Over 111 million of these girls are living in the world’s least developed countries where getting an education is already a struggle.
As COVID-19 forces 743 million girls out of school in 185 countries, we are concerned that rising drop-out rates will disproportionately affect adolescent girls. This will only exacerbate gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early and unintended pregnancy, and child, early and forced marriage.
Governments must take steps to mitigate the effects of school closures on girls, boys and their families.
Education authorities and schools must ensure education continues in the event of school closures. Schools that remain open 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.
- 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.
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
Quarantine measures imposed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are putting girls and women at heightened risk of violence in the home and cutting them off from essential protection services and social networks.
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.
Global lockdowns also lock down girls’ autonomy, reinforcing the attitudes and practices that regard girls as second class and hold them back.
Rigorous protection and safeguarding of all children, and of girls and women from gender-based violence must be emphasised and prioritised in all policies, information, guidance at all stages of the response.
- Health services
Evidence from past epidemics indicates healthcare 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.
Challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health information services - including contraception, safe abortion and HIV medications- will exacerbate the risks to girls’ and women’s health and lives.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights must not be de-prioritised by governments. They are essential life-saving services which need to be part of the critical response to this crisis.
- 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 or 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.
We are closely monitoring the impact on our operations and place utmost importance on the safety and well-being of our staff and communities. We are following public health guidance issued by national governments and the World Health Organization and drawing upon our experience of responding in medical emergencies such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
We are organising programmes in the most vulnerable communities around the world to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to protect and empower girls as they weather this storm.
We are working with communities, national governments and partners to tackle the spread of coronavirus, and to ensure that the impacts of the crisis on the rights and well-being of children, particularly girls, and young women, are fully understood and taken into account in their national response efforts and in their international cooperation.
We are working with teachers, parents, health care providers and partners to ensure children get the support they need during this crisis.
We are focusing on the following areas:
- Health and hygiene
We are installing additional handwashing facilities, distributing hygiene kits and sharing age-appropriate, gender-aware health and hygiene information. We also aim to counteract the spread of myths and misconceptions around the virus and the stigmatisation of those who fall ill.
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 will provide support to local health authorities and train community health workers. We will work with local government and health services to ensure that people living with HIV have continued access to treatment.
We are supporting children’s continuing education – to help teachers and schools protect their students from the disease, to look after the most at risk and ensuring access to handwashing facilities in schools.
Where possible, we are exploring innovative options for ensuring continuity of education - including measures such as distance learning.
- Child protection
Women and girls are among those who suffer most during emergencies. We’ll strive to ensure their needs are addressed.
We are working to ensure children are protected and safe, identifying those most at risk and enabling them to get the support they need, and also raising awareness of safe behaviour among young people.
- Community engagement
We will work with communities and traditional and religious leaders to adapt traditional practices to avoid transmission of COVID-19 and train those well placed to care for vulnerable children in case of an outbreak.
- 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 will identify vulnerable children and ensure there are safe care arrangements for them as well as access to psychosocial support.
Plan International supports some of the largest displaced populations around the world in places like Central African Republic, Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Venezuela. The families in these camps live in crowded spaces often with poor hygiene and sanitation and health services, where the impact of the virus would be devastating.
We will intensify support and preventive measures in existing refugee and displaced people’s camps where we are already working. We will increase access to water and soap in child friendly spaces and provide hygiene and menstrual health kits, and 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 how COVID-19 will affect the most vulnerable populations.
If and when coronavirus hits lower income countries the effects could be devastating. Reduced infrastructure and healthcare provisions will make the virus harder to control. This will in turn make the pandemic harder to control.
We must do all we can to support these countries through the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will work to ensure the world’s most vulnerable children and young people get the support they need during this crisis but to do this we need your help.