The United Nations on Wednesday launched a massive humanitarian response plan to fight the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in 51 countries.
The plan’s budget stands at $2 billion, about €1.85 billion, of which €600 million will go to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Children are the hidden victims of this pandemic,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stressed in a press release issued on Wednesday. “We’re worried about its short-and long-term impacts on their health, well-being, development and prospects” and their “access to water and hygiene services.”
Recalling the importance of washing hands as a means of protecting oneself and others from the virus, Fore pointed out that “40% of the world’s population – or 3 billion people – do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home.”
About 16% of healthcare facilities worldwide, or 1 in 6, do not have hygiene services, according to the UNICEF Executive Director. She added that in over a third of the world’s schools – and half of all schools in the least developed countries – children do not have anywhere to wash their hands.
The United Nations is also concerned about the short and long-term effects on children’s education, noting that hundreds of millions are no longer going to school, while parents and guardians have lost their jobs.
“We know from experience that for vulnerable children, the longer they stay away from school, the less likely they are to return,” Fore said. “For example, school closures during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 resulted in spikes in child labour, neglect, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies.”
The present situation has also reduced access to nutrition – including for the many children who depend on school feeding programmes – health programmes, drinking water and accurate information.
Failure to help vulnerable countries now against the coronavirus could put millions in danger, the UN warned.