Protecting Children and Families from COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, UNICEF is working to protect children and their families in Indonesia with critical supplies, support and lifesaving information.
The world faces an unprecedented global health and socio-economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Indonesia, the lives of millions of children and their families have already been upended. Lockdowns and school closures are affecting their education, mental health and access to basic health services. The risks of exploitation and abuse are higher than ever, for boys and girls alike.
While the virus does not discriminate by age, income or ethnicity, the most vulnerable children – those already without adequate health care, nutrition and safe water – will be hit hardest. In the face of lives being lost, health and education systems getting disrupted, families sliding into poverty and the risk of violence increasing, it takes urgent action to prevent this health crisis from becoming a child rights crisis.
What is UNICEF doing?
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Indonesia, UNICEF has been leading efforts with the government, the World Health Organization and other partners to respond to the pandemic. From delivering life-saving health supplies and supporting the continuation of essential health and nutrition services, to building water and hygiene facilities, to keeping girls and boys connected to education and protection, UNICEF is working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize its impact on children.
Providing the public with accurate information
UNICEF has launched a mass communications campaign to deliver public health messages and advice to children and parents about the risks of the virus and how to protect themselves. And at a time when misinformation can do real harm, UNICEF is partnering with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn to disprove rumours and ensure that the public has the facts.
Even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in March, UNICEF has been engaging young people through the U-Report platform to see how they are coping with the outbreak and to test their level of awareness about symptoms, transmission and prevention. Based on the results of the poll, UNICEF has set up a chatbot to facilitate the exchange of lifesaving information via WhatsApp to more than 500,000 users.
Reaching vulnerable children with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)
Handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Yet about a third of schools (35 per cent) and primary health centres (34 per cent) lack access to hand washing facilities. In densely populated urban areas, 28 per cent of residents, or about 41 million people, don’t have a handwashing facility at home.
To help prevent infections, UNICEF is promoting handwashing and hygiene practices and distributing supplies, including handwashing stations, disinfectant equipment and bars of soap to the most vulnerable communities.
Ensuring children continue to learn
The pandemic has forced the government to temporarily close thousands of schools across the country to curb the spread of COVID-19, leaving nearly 60 million students out of school or studying remotely. Unless all children have equal access to education during this period, millions of students could suffer damage to their learning and potential.
To minimize the disruption to children’s education, UNICEF is providing guidance to parents, caregivers and educators to support home and remote learning, and working with partners to design innovative education solutions. For children living in child care institutions, UNICEF is distributing recreation kits that contain learning materials to enable them to play and study at home. UNICEF is also supporting the Education and Culture Ministry to air educational TV and radio programmes for children with limited internet access to learn from home.
Keeping children healthy
The pandemic is already placing enormous strain on the Indonesian health system as workers and resources are diverted to support the response. Fear of contracting the virus and physical distancing may also lead some parents to defer routine immunization. Many newborns, children and pregnant mothers are at risk of missing critical health interventions, which may undermine many of the gains made in child survival and development over the last several decades.
UNICEF is prioritizing the delivery of life-saving vaccines and medicines to protect children from diseases and working closely with the government and logistics networks to mitigate the impact of travel restrictions on the delivery of these supplies. UNICEF is also procuring supplies for infection prevention and control (IPC) such as hand-sanitizer, masks, disinfectant and personal protective equipment so that health workers can carry out their jobs safely and effectively.
Helping families to meet their children’s nutritional needs
Even before the pandemic, Indonesia faced a triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential micronutrients, and overweight – which will likely worsen as families lose income and have limited access to healthy food items. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to significantly increase maternal and child wasting and micronutrient deficiencies, which could result in an increase in both child stunting and obesity due to higher intake of ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Likewise, many nutrition services could be suspended by the pandemic, and community programmes for the early detection and treatment of wasted children could be disrupted as well.
UNICEF is working with the government to continue nutrition services for vulnerable children and families, including growth monitoring and promotion, distribution of essential micronutrients, support for mothers to safely and adequately feed their babies, and screening and treatment of under-five children for severe wasting. Moreover, UNICEF is providing easy, affordable and healthy eating ideas for families during the pandemic to promote healthy diets and strengthen immune systems.
Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse
As communities are disrupted, children already at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse will find themselves even more vulnerable. Social and economic insecurity will heighten girls’ risk of early marriage, pregnancy and gender-based violence. With isolation, children facing violence in the home or online will be farther from help. And the stress and stigma of illness and financial strain will exacerbate volatile family and community situations.
UNICEF is working with local authorities to strengthen child protection systems to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse directed at children. To support mental health and combat stigma, xenophobia and discrimination, UNICEF is providing peer-to-peer learning and information sharing among young people. UNICEF is also working with its partners to advocate for the release of detained children who are at grave risk of contracting COVID-19.
Supporting families to cover their needs and care for their children
The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 will be felt hardest by the most vulnerable children. Many already live in poverty, and the consequences of COVID-19 response measures risk plunging them further into hardship.
UNICEF is providing support to the government to develop social protection solutions that ensure the poorest households can access critical funding.
Collaborating with the private sector
The business sector plays an essential role in responding to the pandemic in Indonesia and minimizing its impacts on children.
UNICEF has published recommendations to help employers strengthen support for workers and their families during the pandemic. This guidance was published together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women.
UNICEF’s WASH4Work initiative appeals to businesses located in hard-to-reach areas to support access to clean water and safely managed sanitation for their employees and the surrounding communities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Help UNICEF protect and support children and families affected by COVID-19
Now more than ever, we count on our donors to continue supporting our mission for those with nothing and no one – despite these difficult times.