UNICEF is appealing for US$1.6 billion to support its humanitarian response for children impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, up from $651.6 million requested in a similar appeal late March.
According to UNICEF, this increase reflects the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the disease and families’ rising needs. As the outbreak enters its fifth month, the costs for supplies, shipment, and duty of care are increasing dramatically.
“The pandemic is a health crisis which is quickly becoming a child rights crisis,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Schools are closed, parents are out of work, and families are under growing strain. As we begin to reimagine what a post-COVID world would look like, these funds will help us respond to the crisis, recover from its aftermath, and protect children from its knock-on effects.”
Access to essential services like health care and routine immunization has already been compromised for hundreds of millions of children, which could lead to a significant increase in child mortality. Meanwhile, the mental health and psychosocial impact of restricted movement, school closures, and subsequent isolation are likely to intensify already high levels of stress, especially for vulnerable children.
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According to a UNICEF analysis, some 77 per cent of children under the age of 18 worldwide, or 1.8 billion, are living in one of the 132 countries with some form of movement restrictions in place due to COVID-19.
Risk factors for violence, abuse, and neglect are on the rise for children living under restricted movement and socio-economic decline. Girls and women are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
In many cases, refugee, migrant, and internally displaced children, as well as returnees, are experiencing reduced access to services and protection and increasing exposure to xenophobia and discrimination.
“We have seen what the pandemic is doing to countries with developed health systems and we are concerned about what it would do to countries with weaker systems and fewer available resources,” said Fore.
UNICEF is focusing its response to the pandemic on countries with existing humanitarian crises – working both to prevent transmission and mitigate the collateral impacts on children, women, and vulnerable populations, especially around access to health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and protection.
UNICEF has so far received US $215 million in support of its response to the pandemic.