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Postet 17.04.2020

Fight the coronavirus – global solidarity for children

Today, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a Policy Brief on The Impact of COVID-19 on children which includes recommendations and concrete steps to mitigate the many longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on boys and girls.  Mr. Guterres notes that the pandemic presents: “…the greatest test the world has faced since the Second World War and the formation of the United Nations...what started as a public health emergency has snowballed into a formidable test for global development and for the prospects of today’s young generation...”


Foto: Lei Tapang/Save the Children

I very much welcome his leadership and I cannot agree more with his message. I am deeply concerned that our actions to slow down and mitigate the virus will reverse many years of progressive improvement for children and their rights.

Working in 120 countries with long experience of responding to war, famine, poverty and disease, Save the Children is seeing devastating consequences for children and their rights. Health systems, even in rich countries, are being overwhelmed. Economies are sliding towards depression – worsening poverty and inequality. Children have had their right to education disrupted or denied by school closures. In the most vulnerable communities girls are less likely to return to school, setting them on an accelerated path toward early marriage and childbearing. Disruptions to society and high stress in the home have a heavy impact on children, and now millions of children face the increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Many more will face the prospect of poverty and may be pushed into child labour. Left unchecked, the pandemic will tear apart the lives of millions of families and children across the world, particularly those left furthest behind and most deprived of their rights – including children with disabilities. However, our actions to slow down and mitigate the virus will also affect the most vulnerable boys and girls in distinct and disproportionate ways for years to come.

None of us have all the answers in this complex, evolving and unprecedented situation. It is overwhelming. Our shared humanity demands a global response centred on a commitment to human rights, a common-purpose, solidarity and the ability to act together on shared data, including the important views of children.

Protecting A Generation

With all this in mind, as we have pivoted our programmes to respond to COVID-19, we are calling on global leaders to come together and deliver for the most vulnerable children and their families. In our Global Agenda for Action #ProtectAGeneration, we are calling on leaders to take urgent steps to ensure:

  • Disease mitigation: a global plan and national actions that prioritise measures that support marginalised and vulnerable populations. Funding and support for essential routine services, including maternal, new-born, child, adolescent and sexual and reproductive health services, immunisation and infant/young child feeding.

  • Global financing now/for recovery: immediate action to mobilise financing to respond to the health, social and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Ensure financing response protects and promotes human rights and gender equality.

  • Support for family finances: the most deprived and marginalised children and families are prioritised, including families in urban areas and informal settlements. Governments maintain, scale-up and strengthen inclusive, gender-responsive social protection programmes where they already exist.

  • Help with education and learning: mitigate the impact of school closures and uphold the right of every child to a safe, quality, inclusive education. Plan now for the safe school reopening, with a focus on the reintegration of marginalised groups, including adolescent girls and other groups at higher risk of not returning.

  • Children’s safety and protection: Ensure the protection of all children affected by COVID-19 from abuse, exploitation, gender-based violence and neglect. Ensure the protection of all children from violence in online platforms; domestic settings; and conflict settings.

    We believe that these key actions can make the difference and protect a generation of children.

The imperative to engage and consult with children

We never stop being the children we once were, but we must also recognize that the experience of childhood changes over generations and is different across contexts. From a very early age, I held the conviction that I was a person with views worth listening to. I remember how lonely and frustrating it could be when I did not feel heard by those with power in my life. This is one of the reasons I chose to work for Save the Children, a movement that recognises that children are the true experts of their lived experiences and have ideas on how to solve the challenges they and their communities are facing. Thousands of policy decisions that affect children’s rights are currently being made around the world, but without children. Moreover, the spaces that support children’s participation are closing, as schools and public spaces are restricted or closed. It is a human rights obligation to ensure children, particularly girls, will be part of the response. We must work with children to understand the impact of the virus and together define the actions needed to protect and advance children’s rights. My appeal to leaders around the world is that we draw on children’s insight and recommendations and ensure their contributions shape our response efforts. We must further recognise the role that children can play in communicating and mitigating the risks of COVID-19. I guarantee this will pay a dividend as we emerge from our initial response and face the long-term implications of the pandemic.

Global Solidarity for children

As the Secretary-General has said, this pandemic is a test of our compliance, our patience and our ingenuity, but most of all it is a test of our solidarity. Each nation is trying to do its best under the circumstances, but to beat this pandemic we need to do better. Save the Children deeply welcomes the recent initiatives from the World Bank, IMF and G20 to relieve debt service obligations of some of the world´s poorest countries, and urges all creditors - public and private - to take part in the collective efforts to free up public money to invest in children´s rights and welfare. If debt takes precedence over people, children will be hit first and hit hardest. The coronavirus crisis demands a global plan of action underpinned by debt relief.

We need to work together quickly to help prevent disaster in these countries. Not only because it is in our interest to contain new waves of the pandemic, but because we start from the common fundamental understanding that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This matters more than ever at this time of crisis. I hope that we will, one and all, rise up to the challenge - 2.2 billion children around the world depend on it.

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