Coronavirus: Key messages
How to protect yourself
- In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. Hundreds of millions are not in school. Parents and caregivers have lost their jobs. Borders have been closed. Children are the hidden victims of this pandemic. We are worried about its short- and long-term impacts on their health, well-being, development and prospects.
- Our life-saving work for children has never been more critical. With millions of children uprooted, affected by wars, dying from preventable causes, living in extreme poverty or missing out on essential vaccines and services, the need for support has never been greater.
- Hundreds of millions of children around the world will likely face increasing threats to their safety and wellbeing – including mistreatment, gender-based violence, exploitation, social exclusion and separation from caregivers – because of actions taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- UNICEF is leading on preventative actions in communities across the affected countries with risk communication, providing hygiene and medical kits to schools and health clinics and monitoring the impact of the outbreak to support continuity of care, education and social services. UNICEF is also working to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on protection for children and women.
- All around the world, people are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. Sound preparation, based on scientific evidence, is what is needed at this time.
- Misinformation during times of a health crisis can result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus. It can also spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization, and have other consequences like offering a false sense of protection.
- UNICEF is actively taking steps to provide accurate information about the virus and working with our partners to develop contingency plans to address the spread of the virus, especially in countries with weaker health systems.
- Here are the four steps you can take to keep you and your family safe:
1. Wash your hands frequently – including every time you enter the home or office, after shaking hands with other people, after you cough or sneeze, and before you eat – using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub;
2. Cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of used tissue immediately, and wash your hands;
3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms; and
4. Seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Protect yourself and your family by sourcing accurate information from reliable sources. UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization, government authorities and with online partners like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok to make sure that accurate information and advice is available.
Key message 1: UNICEF is working to keep children and their families safe and informed about how to protect themselves.
• UNICEF is leading on preventative actions in communities across the affected countries with risk communication, providing handwashing supplies, hygiene and medical kits to schools and health clinics and monitoring the impact of the outbreak to support continuity of care, education and social services.
• UNICEF is maintaining a steady flow of personal protection equipment — such as gowns, masks, goggles and gloves — to support infection prevention and control while keeping essential, hard-working health workers safe.
• UNICEF is engaged with approximately 1,000 suppliers and industry leaders across the world, to find a solution to current market constraints. Despite the extreme market conditions, including aggressive buying and emerging export restrictions, UNICEF has managed to secure availability from April to June from suppliers for key products, such as 26.9 million surgical masks, 4.8 million respirators, 6 million coveralls, 7.1 million surgical gowns, 1.5 million goggles and 29,000 infrared thermometers.
• UNICEF is supporting distance learning opportunities for children who can’t access school and to provide mental health and psychosocial support to children and families affected.
• Given the unpredictable nature of the virus and the continued spread, UNICEF is liaising with Governments, World Health Organization counterparts and other partners in developing contingency plans in other regions, especially in countries with weaker health systems and limited capacity to deal with major disease outbreaks.
• We are deeply worried about the next phases of the crisis and the risk of it hitting some of the world’s most vulnerable children and families – including those who have been uprooted from their homes, those living in marginalized communities, and those in countries with limited access to healthcare and social services. Extra efforts should be made to protect those most vulnerable, regardless of where they are, their legal status, origin or condition. We will not be safe until the hardest to reach are safe too.
• UNICEF has appealed for $651 million to scale up its response to the Covid-19 virus outbreak and support global efforts to contain it.
Key Message 2: Mitigate the consequences of a serious situation
• Children are the hidden victims of COVID-19. Hundreds of millions of children have had their learning interrupted because of school closures. Families who have lost their livelihoods are struggling to make ends meet. Children around the world will likely face increasing threats to their safety and wellbeing – including mistreatment, gender-based violence, exploitation, social exclusion and separation from caregivers – because of actions taken to contain the disease. It is critical that children’s access to learning, health, nutrition and protection services is not affected.
• UNICEF is liaising with our partners to develop contingency plans to address the spread of the virus, especially in countries with weaker health systems and limited capacity to deal with major disease outbreaks. At the same time, UNICEF is working with our partners to mitigate the consequences of an outbreak. This includes providing guidance and advice to governments, teachers and school administrators, and parents about how best to protect yourself and your family while maintaining as uninterrupted a life as possible.
• Decisions to close schools and other public institutions in response to a public health crisis are generally made by government and health authorities. Such decisions should always be made based on the best information available and local risk of infection.
• As we have seen during previous public health crises, school closures can have adverse consequences for children’s wellbeing and learning – particularly for children from vulnerable communities. In the event schools are closed, there should be solid plans in place to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options, and access to essential services for all children. These plans should also include necessary steps for the eventual safe reopening of schools.
• Where schools remain open, safe operational guidelines should be followed to ensure that children and their families remain protected and informed. Schools can be used as important mechanisms to provide children with vital information about how to protect themselves and their families.
• COVID-19 is upending life for children and families around the world. School closures and other social distancing measures are disrupting daily routines, threatening children’s ability to play and learn and placing additional stressors on parents, who may be struggling with a loss of childcare or income. These factors and the possibility of anxiety, stigma and discrimination increase children’s vulnerability to abuse, exploitation and psychological distress. In extreme cases, children may find themselves robbed of a childhood as they step in for ill caretakers or work to supplement household income.
• UNICEF is deeply concerned about the impacts of the pandemic and containment measures on children and is calling on governments and businesses to help mitigate them. Children already affected by poverty, maltreatment or social exclusion will likely suffer the most and will be most in need of our support.
• UNICEF is urging governments to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children amidst the intensifying socioeconomic fallout from the disease. The UN children’s agency, together with its partners at the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, has released a set of guidance to support authorities and organizations involved in the response.
Key Message 3: Fact over fiction
• Protect yourself and your family by sourcing accurate information from reliable sources. UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization, government authorities and with online partners like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok to make sure that accurate information and advice is available.
• While there is a lot of information available, particularly online, on what to do and how to do it, only some of that information is reliable. Much of it can be ill-advised, misinformed or even purposefully misleading.
• For example, a recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication, appears to indicate that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, of course, not true.
• UNICEF reminds the public to seek information about the outbreak from reliable sources and not to pass on unverified information from mass media and social media posts.
• UNICEF is teaming with digital platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok to amplify the advice coming from trusted organizations and to tackle misinformation. Facebook has offered ad credit support to our affected regional and country offices, and UNICEF is one of the trusted contributors to Facebook’s new Coronavirus Information Hub. UNICEF posts will also be included in the new LinkedIn coronavirus feed to provide the latest updates from official sources.
Here are some good sources of information to protect yourself and your family:
Key Message 4: Science over stigma
• Growing stigmatization of groups and ethnicities associated with the disease is deeply concerning.
• In times of high anxiety it is understandable that people would be worried, but fear and stigma make a difficult situation worse—not only unfairly targeting healthy individuals, but also driving those who may have contracted the disease to avoid detection and treatment, and increasing the risk of further spread. Stigmatization is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.
• Reports are emerging from around the world of people from vulnerable groups including migrants and refugees — who have not even been in an area of ongoing spread of coronavirus or had contact with a confirmed case — being subject to verbal or even physical abuse. UNICEF condemns these incidents in the strongest terms. We cannot allow this new virus to serve as a vehicle for racism or xenophobia.
• Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. Worse, people from affected countries are already worried or anxious about friends and relatives who are living in the region. Facing stigma can make fear and anxiety worsen. Social support during this outbreak can help them cope.
• People who have returned from an area with ongoing spread of coronavirus more than 14 days ago and do not have symptoms are not infected with the virus and contact with them will not give you the virus.
• As we work to protect children from harmful viruses, we must also protect them from stigma and abuse. During disease outbreaks, it’s more important than ever to spread kindness and support each other.
Key Message 5: Handwashing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19
• Handwashing with soap, when done correctly, is critical in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It is one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, as well as many other infectious diseases.
• Yet for billions, even this most basic of steps is simply out of reach. In many parts of the world, children, parents, teachers, healthcare workers and other members of the community do not have access to basic handwashing facilities at home, in healthcare facilities, schools or elsewhere. In total, only 3 out of 5 people worldwide have basic handwashing facilities, according to the latest data.
• UNICEF works around the world to ensure children and their parents have access to appropriate handwashing facilities. Additionally, UNICEF promotes handwashing in over 90 countries, working with governments to develop handwashing policies, strategies and action plans.
• UNICEF is reminding the public of the best way to wash their hands properly:
1. Wet hands with running water
2. Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
3. Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
4. Rinse thoroughly with running water
5. Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel