Forcibly displaced children need more support than ever as COVID-19 continues

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 11:18 |
A health worker carries out temperature screening on children in order to control the spread of COVID-19, in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)


The UN Child Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have urged more support than ever to forcibly displaced children amid the spread of the novel cornavirus disease.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the needs of refugee children have become even more acute with the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stating that millions of children around the world have been driven from their homes and across borders by conflict, violence and other forms of harm, including 12.7 million refugees and 1.1 million asylum seekers, the officials said meeting those needs is key to safeguarding both their wellbeing today and future potential.

"Displaced children are among those with the most limited access to prevention services, testing, treatment and other essential support. In addition, the pandemic and containment measures are likely to have negative consequences for their safety and education, which were precarious even before the outbreak of the disease.

Going to school was already a daily challenge or impossibility for many displaced children around the world.

Less than half of all school-aged refugee children were enrolled, with that dropping to 1 in 4 for secondary school. More displaced children are now likely to be out of school for a prolonged period and some might never return.

The pandemic risks turning back hard-won gains that had been made in expanding access to protection, healthcare and education for refugee children globally, according to the statement.

"We cannot let this happen. At a time when needs for support and attention multiply, the pandemic response must include clear commitments to the protection and wellbeing of forcibly displaced children," it said.

UNHCR and UNICEF have expressed commitment to doing more and better in this crisis and beyond for refugee children, their families and communities, and those who host them.

"This commitment aligns with our new initiative, the Blueprint for joint action launched by our two organizations in January 2020 to expand refugee children's access to protection, education, water and sanitation services in first group of priority countries," they said.

The two officials said UNHCR and UNICEF collaborate in more than 40 countries around the world and are working together to see commitments made for children under the Global Compact for Refugees realized.

Expressing continued possible support to all refugee children during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, they have urged governments and the international community to join us in these efforts.

In Ethiopia, although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported amongst the refugee population and their host communities yet, UNHCR and UNICEF continue to strengthen efforts to prevent and limit the potential spread of the virus among the nearly 760,000 refugees in the country, said the statement.

Prioritized interventions for UNHCR include the provision of soap and adequate water supplies, procurement of medical supplies, enhancing community awareness in hygiene promotion, installation of hand-washing facilities at communal centers and refugee households, disinfection of food distribution centres and making sure that refugees practice social distancing during food distribution and other activities.

Temporary isolation sites have also been established in each camp to isolate suspected cases of COVID-19 until they are transferred to the government-designated isolation and treatment centres, it said.

UNICEF has also positioned six water trucks and a similar number of large capacity bladder tanks to provide water to refugees at Kule, Teirkidi and Ngunyyiel refugee camps which will benefit an estimated 180,000 people, according to the statement. (Xinhua)

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