Shielding Children and Communities from the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 26, 2020
The spread of COVID-19 poses a significant challenge to societies and economies worldwide. This challenge is particularly acute in the countries where War Child is active - countries where basic needs go unmet and health systems are in disrepair as a result of violence and armed conflict.
The United Nations this week warned that the spread of coronavirus could bring about the collapse of health services in Gaza. And refugee-hosting countries across the Middle East and Africa face urgent challenges in maintaining water, sanitation and hygiene in camps and settlements.
All of this not only puts pressure on the health of children and families living with the effects of armed conflict - their livelihoods and mental health also come under threat.
Meeting local needs
War Child is taking every action to meet these challenges. We are working with our partners worldwide to raise awareness on personal protection against the coronavirus pandemic. This simple measure has been shown to be an effective first line of defence in past health crises.
Awareness-raising has potentially life-saving significance for Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan. In Jordan’s refugee camps - where we provide education and psychosocial support services - water and sanitation services are frequently disrupted. Inhabitants live in cramped conditions where kitchens and bathrooms are shared - which means distancing efforts are vitally important.
And unregistered refugees living in informal settlements - typically in plastic tents - face additional challenges. They depend on daily work to meet their basic needs - work which is currently denied them as a result of nationwide curfews. Anxiety is rising among both refugee and host communities in the wake of the pandemic.
In Lebanon we have launched a series of public information campaigns to address this fear - including the innovative animation below - and are providing additional information through WhatsApp. In Jordan we are working to deliver education and information by phone and online.
Messages through music
In Africa - where few Covid-19 cases have so far been confirmed - we are taking our message into the heart of communities while we can. In these communities TV and internet access is scarce - meaning word of mouth is the most effective means of communication.
In South Sudan our staff and volunteers are informing people how they can protect themselves and prevent the coronavirus from spreading. And we also have taken our message nationwide - with the help of Afrobeat star Check-B Magic. The rapper has recorded a jingle with key messages on hygiene and safety.
This musical message is not only being broadcast on stations across South Sudan - it’s also being shared by War Child staff through moving sound-systems in refugee settlements and rural communities as part of our ‘Mobile Awareness on Wheels’ initiative.
War Child is continuing to support to children and their families in all countries where we are present. We are adapting our programmes to meet urgent basic needs and will continue to provide vital psychosocial support for children and families living in isolation.
“These are extraordinary moments - both for the world and for the children and families we work with,” says War Child humanitarian director Dr Unni Krishnan. “All of this not only puts pressure on the health of children and families living with the effects of armed conflict - their mental health also comes under threat.”
“Our mission demands that we are relevant for children and stand in solidarity with them when they need our urgent support. As a humanitarian organisation, we are adapting our activities and working with partners to meet the biggest emergency that children have faced in our 25-year history.”