Fighting Coronavirus (COVID-19) | UNICEF USA

Even before the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a global health emergency, UNICEF had rushed the first shipment of 6 metric tons of medical supplies to the front lines. To date, UNICEF has delivered almost 6 million protective items to health workers. UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to save and protect children and responds to about 300 humanitarian emergencies per year. In any humanitarian emergency, UNICEF puts children first. UNICEF’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is no different.

Key to UNICEF's effectiveness is its humanitarian warehouse in Copenhagen, the world's largest, which can ship emergency supplies anywhere in the world in 48 to 72 hours. That means that wherever and whenever children need help, UNICEF can mobilize quickly — just as it has since the novel coronavirus appeared.

What is coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from colds to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. First detected in Wuhan City, in China's Hubei Province, the virus is now present in over 100 countries. Though commonly known as coronavirus, its official name is “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19” for short.

How are children affected by the coronavirus?

Children are the most vulnerable in any emergency, especially those who are already struggling to survive without adequate health care, nutrition and safe water. The coronavirus has already had a huge impact on children’s education. Hundreds of millions of children are out of school worldwide. Children are also affected when their parents’ work schedules are disrupted. And as the fears of the adults around them mount, so does children’s anxiety.

How is UNICEF helping?

As the lead humanitarian agency looking out for children when emergencies strike, UNICEF knows what children need to survive difficult times. In addition to sending vital supplies, UNICEF is leading on preventative actions in communities to protect children’s health and the health of parents and caregivers so that they can continue to keep children safe. UNICEF is 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 and partners have issued new guidance to protect children and prevent the transmission of COVID-19. UNICEF has offered recommendations to help children continue to learn through online classes and radio broadcasts. UNICEF also offers plans for keeping children and their families safe and informed by:

  • Providing children with information about how to protect themselves
  • Promoting best handwashing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies
  • Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities
  • Increasing airflow and ventilation in school buildings
  • Encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns

How is UNICEF using information to save lives?

UNICEF is providing information to keep children and families safe around the world. At a time when fake news can do real harm, UNICEF is teaming up with digital platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok to dispel rumors and make sure that lifesaving information reaches all corners of the globe.

In Indonesia, where the nation's first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 2, UNICEF teamed up with the government to conduct a poll via U-Report — a youth engagement tool that uses mobile phones to connect with more than 68 million users worldwide — to test young people's knowledge of coronavirus. The poll generated 6,800 responses in three days and helped to identify what young people know and don't know about symptoms, transmission and prevention. Up-to-date messages on how to stay safe were shared with all 108,000 U-Reporters across the country.  Results from the poll were used to create a COVID-19 chatbot that is now being scaled up in 42 countries.

How to talk to your kids about coronavirus

Children may be overwhelmed by the news of coronavirus spreading, especially if they’re not getting their questions answered. To help them cope, take these steps:

  • Find out what they already know: Ask open questions and listen
  • Be honest: Explain the truth in a child-friendly way
  • Show them how to protect themselves and their friends
  • Offer reassurance
  • Check if they are experiencing stigma or repeating hurtful remarks about others

Also, for the millions of young students across the country affected by school closures, UNICEF Kid Power at Home offers a way to keep them moving and learning while making a difference.