Terre des Hommes would like to offer its solidarity to all those impacted across the planet by the coronavirus pandemic. The impact of this crisis on communities in poor, fragile and conflict-affected states in particular, is deeply worrying.
While fewer cases of Covid-19 have currently been recorded in the world’s least developed countries, Terre des Hommes is concerned that healthcare and other infrastructure in these places will struggle to cope with large numbers of coronavirus cases. We are equally anxious about the situation of children in humanitarian settings, including children on the move.
Children and families in the poorest sections of society across the world are less able to protect themselves from Covid-19. Too many are forced to live in inadequate conditions and one in three people worldwide do not have basic handwashing facilities in their homes. This rises to almost three in four households in the world’s Least Developed Countries. Children may find it more and more difficult to attend school or continue their schooling from home during this crisis.
Children living in conflict situations and other humanitarian crises are also at heightened risk. These include children and young people trapped in reception centres on the Greek islands without the healthcare infrastructure to deal with a coronavirus outbreak. Children are also being denied their rights to asylum by governments citing Covid-19 as an excuse.
The problems these children face are compounded by the challenge Covid-19 poses to organisations helping them, such as Terre des Hommes. We are striving to adapt our services to working in this new reality and provide as much assistance as possible to the children and young people we work with.
Terre des Hommes has already developed programmes which can slow the Covid-19 coronavirus. The Gravit’eau project has installed cheap handwashing stations across the world, including in camps housing displaced people in northern Nigeria. The stations are an easy-to-install soap and recycling system which greatly reduce the risk of cholera and other epidemics.
In Ecuador, Terre des Hommes is distributing disinfectant, hygiene kits and face masks to children and families. We are also knocking door-to-door to help people understand how the dangers of Covid-19 and how the virus spreads.
Terre des Hommes has also modified existing programmes so that they can continue during the coronavirus pandemic. In Iraq, psychosocial support for displaced children and young people is now carried out remotely or door-to-door.
We are furthermore guaranteeing that the fight to end female genital mutilations does not waver due to Covid-19. A shelter run by Terre des Hommes in Tanzania has taken in 121 children who were at increased risk due to school closures. Other centres in Uganda and Ethiopia are also open, having stopped visitors and introduced measures to monitor children’s health over the course of the pandemic.
Terre des Hommes has also continued supporting children and young people in Europe. In Lombardy, Italy, we have opened a free helpline staffed by psychologists for doctors working with vulnerable families during the pandemic. We have produced a guide on promoting mental wellbeing and avoiding stress in children in quarantine, which is available in six languages.
In these difficult days, our priority remains the rights and wellbeing of the children and young people we serve. While the longer-term impact this crisis will have on them is as of yet unpredictable, we will stand ready to support, protect and empower them to the best of our endeavours.