Every day the numbers testing positive for COVID-19 rise and countries around the world face new realities. If there is anything this crisis has reinforced, it is that there are no real borders. We are all interconnected.
While advocates for children and families are rallying in the United States, similar efforts are taking place around the world across the various sectors, including health, education, child protection and social protection. Together the actions they propose can help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on child development and family wellbeing.
Below I provide a glimpse into the global response to date. The list of organizations and resources emerging minute by minute is a testimonial to all of those around the world who are trying to address the needs of children and families.
Tracking the pandemic and providing guidance on health
WHO has been tracking the number of people affected around the world and providing the latest up to the date information on the pandemic, including country specific information and technical guidance.
Stepping up supports for young children and families
We know that very young children are particularly vulnerable in times of crises, especially in communities with high concentration of poverty, lack of access to health care, child care, adequate nutrition and family support. The Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) catalyzes collective action on behalf of young children and their families around the world. ECDAN has been working with a number of international organizations and regional early childhood networks to gather resources in multiple languages to support nurturing care during the crises.
WHO has also developed important advice for the public on healthy parenting.
UNICEF has responded with a wide array of information and support for children and families around the world, including important resources for parents and practioners.
Responding to the growing number of children out of school around the world
About half the world’s student population have been impacted by schools and university closing. Calling it an “unprecedented challenge,” UNESCO has reported that schools have been closed in more than 100 countries, with partial closures in others – and with more closures to come. UNESCO is tracking the range of issues facing schools and providing important information for educators around the world.
The International-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) is an open, global network of members working together within a humanitarian and development framework to ensure that all individuals have the right to a quality, safe, relevant, and equitable education. INEE has developed a list of resources to support the provision of education in places affected by COVID-19, with particular focus on distance learning, alternative education, e-learning, and psychosocial support.
Making child protection a priority
Protecting children from the adverse emotional experiences that result from a crises is just as important as safeguarding their health. We know too well the stress that this crises is putting on families, particularly those who live in crowded conditions, making children more vulnerable.
The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action is a global network of operational agencies, academic institutional, policymakers, donors and practitioners. Its mission is to support efforts of humanitarian actions to achieve high quality and effective child protection interventions in both refugee and non refugee humanitarian context. The Alliance has developed an important technical guidance for protecting children as the crises unfolds.
In light of the pandemic and its serious risks for persons with disabilities, The International Disability Alliance (IDA), an alliance of 14 global and regional organizations of persons with disabilities, compiled a list of the main barriers that persons with disabilities face in this emergency along with practical solutions and recommendations.
More than 70 million people globally have been forced by persecution, conflict and violence and human rights violations to flee their homes. Refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people around the world too often live without access to clean water, adequate housing, health and family support. These conditions can have a profound impact on the developing child. Much more needs to be done to protect children of refugee families. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is currently strengthening its overall preparedness, prevention and response measures to COVID-19 around the world.
Calling for social protections for families
Families all over the world are at risk of losing jobs, income and job protections which will will have serious impacts on children. Moreover a large segment of the workforce, particularly women around the world, work in the informal sector under conditions that make social distancing particularly difficult. Social Protection efforts are critically important for safeguarding the wellbeing of children and families
The International Labor Organization has conducted a preliminary assessment concerning the possible impact of COVID 19 on the world of work and proposes a range of policy options to mitigate these impacts and facilitate recovery.
In this global emergency, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is focused on the potentially devastating consequences for the world’s two billion informal workers, who lack labour, social and health protections. WIEGO is maintaining close communications with informal worker organizations and networks to determine what is needed and to assist in their advocacy work.
Social isolation does not have to mean social disconnections. People are responding in unprecedented ways that go well beyond borders. Hopefully this can lead to improved conditions for children, a stronger safety net and an enhanced ability to live together in harmony in the future.
Joan Lombardi, PhD is an international expert on child and family policy and a global champion for children.