In numbers: how we delivered for children in 2020
Five ways supplies kept children safe in our most challenging year yet.
A year ago today - on 29 January - the first shipments of COVID-19 supplies were on their way from the UNICEF Global Supply Hub in Copenhagen, Denmark, to support countries in their response to the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak.
As the virus spread and countries locked down, the world changed in a matter of weeks. Unprecedented challenges required unprecedented action in this biggest global health crisis in generations.
Despite lockdowns in manufacturing countries, grounded flights, restrictions on international transport and shortages of life-saving supplies, UNICEF found ways to reach the most vulnerable.
In numbers, here is what UNICEF delivered in terms of supplies to keep children safe, healthy and support their learning in 2020 – despite the challenges.
1 - Nearly half a billion items of personal protective equipment: protecting healthcare workers on the front line
Sourcing and delivering personal protective equipment were vital to keep healthcare workers safe from infection while at the forefront of the pandemic response.
From 15 January 2020 until the end of the year, UNICEF managed to ship nearly half a billion items of personal protective equipment including almost 200 million medical masks, 195 million gloves, 14.9 million N95 respirators, 5.7 million gowns, 1 million goggles and 2.7 million face shields.
Protecting those who protect the most vulnerable
By ensuring these supplies reached the hands of the doctors, midwives and nurses who needed them most, UNICEF helped protect front line workers from infection. This also meant vital primary healthcare services, such as neonatal care and childhood vaccinations, could safely continue.
2 - 130,000 School-in-a-Box kits: keeping children learning through uncertainty
In 2020, UNICEF delivered over 130,000 School-in-a-Box kits, with each kit providing all the education materials a teacher needs to help up to 40 students start learning again.
School provides a safe space and a sense of normalcy for children affected by disasters. With the School-in-a-Box, UNICEF can ensure children are able to start learning within the first 72 hours of an emergency.
“Even my books, pencils and pens are all gone. How am I going to go to school now? All I do now is go around and look at all the broken things.”
The small Fijian island 12-year-old Vaseva lives on was badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Yasa, a category five cyclone that hit Fiji on 17 December (local time) causing immense destruction. This was the second time in a year Fiji was affected by a major tropical cyclone, with Cyclone Harold devastating parts of the Pacific Island region in April 2020.
“I was so scared. My family and I ran to my school to hide. I was crying all the time and hugging my mother,” says Vaseva, speaking about the night Tropical Cyclone Yasa tore through her village.
UNICEF provided education supplies – including tents, tarpaulins, School-in-a-Box, early childhood development and recreation kits – to support children and their families affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasa, helping ensure children were able to go back to the classroom and start recovering.
3 - 800 million doses of polio vaccines: ensuring children are protected from disease
Every year, UNICEF reaches almost half of the world’s children under five years of age with life-saving vaccines.
However, in many countries, COVID-19 lockdowns interrupted routine immunization services exposing children to deadly diseases. By mid-May 2020, routine immunization services had been disrupted in at least 68 countries and more than 50 vaccination campaigns had been postponed to prevent transmission.
Despite this, UNICEF found a way. By the end of 2020, our teams delivered over 800 million doses of polio vaccines, protecting children against the deadly viral disease that was once the leading cause of paralysis among children worldwide.
This meant children like Najib from Uganda, pictured below, will be protected.
“I don’t want my child to get diseases like polio. When children are not immunized, they become sickly, malnourished and are unhealthy.”
Some parents walked an hour to get to the health centre to ensure their children received their vaccinations. “I urge parents to bring their children for immunization. I know there are no cars allowed to move but if you start early and walk slowly, you can make it to the facility,” says Angel.
4 - $107.8 million of supplies: responding to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen
In any humanitarian emergency, children pay the heaviest price. Reaching them with the right supplies is at the heart of the UNICEF emergency response.
In Yemen, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, more than 12 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and years of conflict has left the health system on the brink of collapse.
“Children in Yemen continue to face a myriad of threats to their survival. A further spread of cholera, high levels of malnutrition and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases compounded by COVID-19 will only exacerbate the burden that children and their families already face,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative in Yemen in April 2020.
UNICEF shipped over $107.8 million worth of supplies to support children and their families in 2020 including vaccines, personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
5 - 16,795 Oxygen concentrators: bringing life to those fighting for breath
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF sent over 16,000 oxygen concentrators to low- and middle-income countries impacted by the crisis.
Access to oxygen therapy can be lifesaving for critically ill COVID-19 patients. However, in many countries oxygen is rarely available in community health centres and district hospitals.
This is where oxygen concentrators come in. These portable devices are one of the best options for remote areas where no oxygen plants or cylinder delivery networks exist. The cost-effective machines, which are the size of a suitcase, take in air from the environment, remove the nitrogen and produce a continuous source of oxygen flow for patients struggling to breathe.
To help indigenous communities cope with the crisis, in July 2020, UNICEF delivered 40 oxygen concentrators to Peru’s Ministry of Health for distribution to local health centres in Amazonas, Loreto and Ucayali regions, with the machines travelling by plane and boat to reach their destination.
“They will reach the most remote communities in the Amazon where it isn’t possible to have an oxygen plant, where delivering oxygen tanks is unsustainable. These concentrators are the technological alternative for those communities,” said Víctor Zamora, Peru’s former Minister of Health.