Coronavirus: World must unite to focus on the most vulnerable as pandemic declared

 

  • Coronavirus could prove devastating in countries with under-equipped hospitals and shortage of health professionals
  • Children could be pushed into deeper vulnerability
  • Death rates in the world’s poorest countries may be higher than the 3.4% reported so far

 A united global effort is needed to help prevent COVID-19 from having a massive destructive impact on the lives of child refugees, migrants and the very poor, warns aid agency World Vision, as a pandemic is declared by the WHO (World Health Organization).

World Vision health specialists are urging governments not just to focus on the impact of the virus on its own citizens, businesses, travel and trade, but to rally to support war-torn and poverty-affected countries where coronavirus outbreaks could be more deadly.

The WHO’s pandemic declaration is a signal for us to work together to scale up the response internationally. While most countries and citizens will be focused on protecting themselves, we mustn’t forget those - especially children - living elsewhere as refugees, as displaced people and in places where there are few doctors, nurses and hospitals. Our primary concern is for children, many of whom in Asia have already been impacted by loss of family livelihoods, school closures, and health systems under strain.

- Andrew Morley, World Vision International President & CEO

World Vision is already hard at work distributing protection equipment and supplies in Asia, where the virus outbreak was first recorded, as well as rolling out health advice and psycho-social support to children, their caregivers, and communities.

But World Vision’s health experts are deeply concerned about Africa, the conflict-affected Middle East and refugee and migrant populations caused by Venezuela’s economic crisis and the expulsion of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.

COVID-19 is highly infectious and will spread easily in places where there are unhygienic conditions, crowding, and where health services and monitoring are weak. This means that countries hosting high numbers of displaced people and refugees or where there is a severe lack of doctors, nurses, community health workers and hospitals need special and urgent support.

- Tom Davis, World Vision International’s head of Health and Nutrition

While wealthy countries typically have 2-12 hospital beds per 1,000 population, in the poorest countries it is as few as 1 bed per 10,000. There also can be a lack of oxygen, ventilators, and intensive care units. In refugee camps, this kind of medical support is commonly not accessible and death rates from COVID-19 may be higher than the 3.4% reported so far and which come from countries with more advanced healthcare systems. Infection rates may also be higher due to cramped living conditions and poor hygiene.

Davis also warned the domino effect for children could be catastrophic when guardians and income earners fall ill or die creating vulnerabilities for desperate children that range from dropping out of school, to being forced to work, beg or enter the sex trade to survive. Also, as health systems shift resources to caring for the burgeoning number of adults who are sick with COVID-19, routine child health and nutrition services may be put on hold or under-resourced.

World Vision is calling on the UN’s appeal for $61.5m (£47.8m) for COVID-19 to be rapidly met. So far, $66.5m (£51.7m) has been pledged but only $31m (£24.1m) has been given. World Vision is also calling for funding support for its efforts in China to support 1.3 million people.

Find out more about World Vision's Coronavirus Response here.

Will you help us slow the spread of Coronavirus in the world’s most vulnerable communities? Donate here.

For more Coronavirus news and views from World Vision, click here.

World Vision launches campaign to end abuses that keep children from school

As millions of children remain out of school around the world, World Vision UK today launches its “Empty Classrooms, Broken Futures” campaign.

Beirut blast: 6 months on, half a million children at risk of child marriage and forced labour

Over half a million children are at risk of child labour and child marriage as their families struggle six months on from the Beirut blast, World Vision warns today.

Report: Less than 1% of international aid money used to end violence against children

Ending violence against children remains alarmingly underfunded, despite one billion children experiencing violence each year, according to a new report.

World Vision mobilising for a humanitarian response in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

International aid agency, World Vision, has appealed to donors for US$10 million in additional funding, as it launched its humanitarian response to the crisis in the conflict-affected Tigray region of Ethiopia.