For impoverished families displaced by violence, the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis on top of a crisis. Social distancing and regular handwashing are a luxury for parents struggling to keep their children safe in crowded refugee camps and informal settlements. COVID-19 has also disrupted the delivery of lifesaving vaccines and immunization services, threatening to reverse decades of hardwon progress.
Now more than ever, children growing up in some of the world's most challenging circumstances rely on UNICEF for the support and services they need to survive. The pandemic is "truly a global emergency, the effects of which will be felt for years to come," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in June. The response "will require significant global generosity — and UNICEF's programming around the world — for decades."
In Yemen, unconditional emergency cash transfers give families purchase power to pay for basic necessities
After more than five years of civil war, Yemen's health care, water and sanitation systems are in ruins — 70 percent of households don't have water and soap to wash their hands. Spiraling inflation has pushed the price of basic goods out of reach.
UNICEF has been in Yemen for decades, treating severe acute malnutrition and providing health services, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Working with partners, UNICEF is keeping hospitals and health centers open and delivering lifesaving vaccinations. UNICEF has also teamed up with the World Bank in Yemen to distribute direct cash payments to the poorest of the poor in the world's largest cash transfer program.
The front-line health workers work hard while keeping proper #COVID19 prevention measures to reach more children in #AlDhalee governorate and get them vaccinated against the #diphtheria.#ForEveryChild, vaccines #VaccinesWork pic.twitter.com/vqJv7Nsi5z— UNICEF Yemen (@UNICEF_Yemen) July 15, 2020
Life is unbelievably difficult in Yemen, but children there still have hopes of a brighter future. "It is our right to live in peace, and the right to achieve our dreams, " a group of Yemeni children wrote in a recent letter to Executive Director Fore. "Some of us want to become doctors to treat patients and children, others want to learn music and become musicians, while some of us want just to go to school every day and complete our education to become pilots and fly the world."
UNICEF-supported health workers travel to informal settlements to vaccinate children displaced by war in Syria
The nearly six million children been born in Syria since the civil war began in 2011 have no memory of peace. Many know nothing but loss. Violence in northwest Syria displaced more than 875,000 people, 80 percent of them women and children, between December 2019 and February 2020 — that's 6,500 children uprooted every day.
UNICEF and partners are on the ground in Syria and across the region to protect children, help them cope with the impact of conflict and resume their childhoods. During a recent vaccination campaign conducted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, health workers traveled to informal tented settlements in Jordan to make sure displaced children were properly immunized.
A recent Gallup International / ORB International poll asked 3,500 Syrians living in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon about the greatest challenges and concerns they and their children face after nearly a decade of war. The results show that the impact of war leaves lasting psychological damage. "It is obvious that the wounds run deep and that the impact on the mental health of Syrians is tremendous," said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa.
And yet, despite all the disruption they've experienced, the multiple relocations and uncertainty, Syrian parents still show incredible resilience. Making sure their children get an education remains a top priority. Nearly 5 million children inside Syria and neighboring countries continue to learn, thanks largely to the efforts of teachers, education staff and partners on the ground, with generous support from UNICEF's donors.
UNICEF provides health, hygiene and sanitation services to help Rohingya refugees stay safe from COVID-19
It has been three years since militia chased almost 1 million terrified Rohingya refugees across the border from Myanmar's Rakhine State into Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The vast refugee camp that has sprung up in Cox's Bazar is a sea of tents pitched on steep hillsides crosshatched with paths that turn into muddy rivers during monsoon season. Just 58 COVID cases have been confirmed in the camp to date, and 3,026 in the host community, but testing is still minimal.
UNICEF and partners have set up handwashing stations across Cox's Bazar, providing safe water and soap for 240,000 Rohingya refugees. UNICEF also distributes information on how families can stay safe from the novel coronavirus. Schools and learning centers have been shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, but children are still eager to learn. "Clean and safe water keep diseases away," said 12-year-old Nur. "I know how to wash my hands properly to protect myself from diseases."
UNICEF won't stop until all children receive the care and services they need to reach their full potential. This Eid al-Adha, give children hope. Your generous donation will help children and families in need by supporting UNICEF's lifesaving programs.
Top photo: Seven-year-old Jabra is learning how to stay safe from the novel coronavirus in Sana'a, Yemen, with help from UNICEF. © UNICEF/UNI341696/Dhia Al-Adimi