UNICEF is developing local solutions to ensure appropriate masks for children are available and accessible to limit the spread of the COVID-19.
To limit the transmission of the COVID-19 disease, many governments are requiring children over 12 to wear masks in schools. Throughout 2020 more than 50 countries have made mask-wearing upon leaving home compulsory, and the policy landscape shifts depending on the need in a given place. At the same time, there’s a general lack of understanding about how children’s masks perform versus medical masks, what ages should and shouldn’t wear them, and what constitutes a “good” mask.
From a products and market perspective, the design and manufacturing of a child’s mask has no standard specifications. However, a child’s unique situation in a learning environment must be taken into account. Production at scale can be a challenge where mask production is artisanal and there is a lack of user data on the performance of the masks currently being used.
All children that are required to wear a mask should have access to one free of charge and no child should be denied education for not having one. UNICEF has a role in making sure this happens by monitoring it as part of our Accountability to Affected Populations Framework and ensuring children are not discriminated against or excluded because of the low-income status of their families.
Governments aiming to support mask wearing in educational institutions for children of the appropriate age are looking to UNICEF for guidance and technical support to help make quality products available.
UNICEF is taking a three pronged approach to ensure appropriate masks for children are available and accessible to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Publishing the first guidance on children’s masks (UNICEF and the World Health Organization, Aug 2020).
Establishing a product innovation project in Cote d’Ivoire to support the local innovation and production of children’s masks in line with the guidance.
Showcasing the validated children’s masks designs sourced by UNICEF in a new global online catalogue site.
The guidance and support by UNICEF are anticipated to lead to demand-generation for children’s masks, particularly in the 12+ age category where children are advised to follow government mandates for mask wearing.
Supporting local innovation efforts
UNICEF is supporting countries in five key areas for innovating masks for children.
Call to Action: Mobilizing local entrepreneurs and manufacturers to work towards developing UNICEF’s target product while allowing for creativity in the design and use of materials.
Product Iteration: Establishing a process that allows for constant improvements to the product.
Validation: Ensuring the children’s masks do no harm and meet the minimum requirements that are in line with the existing guidelines.
Fundraising & procurement: Supporting the procurement of masks for children in schools.
U-Reporters are raising awareness about COVID-19 in the community of Cocody, a suburban of Abidjan, in the South of Côte d’Ivoire. The U-reporters distribute masks and inform people about the importance of hand washing and social distance.
UNICEF Cote d’Ivoire has been a leading office in working with UNICEF Supply Division’s innovation team to help develop the model for children’s mask innovation.
UNICEF’s unique positioning & partnership potential
UNICEF is uniquely positioned to understand children’s needs for mask-wearing due to the role the organization has played in developing the global guidance. In addition, UNICEF’s expansive network of offices that support governments with education programming and supplies for over 50 years is well positioned to offer a fast and effective infrastructure for mass distribution. Far reaching technology such as UReport and Rapidpro can ensure children are at the centre of the process.
Coupled with effective youth and entrepreneurship programming, UNICEF is an ideal partner to support local innovation, ensure children get masks and influence revenue for local businesses, thereby creating a positive socio-economic impact and realizing a child’s right to education