COVID-19 is an education crisis for vulnerable children and youth impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, and protracted crises. EPA

COVID-19: How ICRC helps children affected by pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures have taken place in virtually all the countries where the ICRC operates. These closures are all too common for communities dealing with situations of conflict and armed violence.
Article 18 June 2020 Ukraine Armenia Azerbaijan South Sudan

For more than 1.5 billion children across 182 countries, education stopped partially, or fully, during the height of the pandemic – that's 91 per cent globally of children enrolled in school. Whilst exclusion from school undermines future options and choices for children, protection related risks for children living in places affected by war and violence increase when schools close. These include:

  • Exposure to violence, abuse, and neglect at home
  • Child recruitment by armed groups
  • Early marriages
  • Teenage pregnancies
  • Child labour
  • Subsequent non-return to school

Girls face greater barriers to school attendance than boys and are exposed to greater levels of domestic and gender-based violence. As a result, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school. They are also more likely never to return to school. School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated this risk.

Over 48 million children rely on school feeding programmes globally which have all been suspended. In parallel, we are seeing the impact of pandemic prevention measures affect incomes and livelihoods which compound the impact on families' ability to provide adequate nutrition for their children and demand that children have to engage in the informal livelihood economy to support household income.

Government awareness of these needs and their monitoring is critical to the futures and the protection, safety and physical integrity of children. The ICRC invites governments and the private sector to work together to provide alternative ways for children's uninterrupted access to child-friendly accredited distance learning methods, ensuring the most vulnerable children are not excluded.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a global health and socioeconomic crisis; it is also a massive education crisis with potentially extremely severe ramifications, especially for vulnerable children and youth impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, and protracted crises. 

The ICRC has joined a network of concerned organisations to raise concern. Read the Statement by the Signatories of the Pledge at the Global Refugee Forum to Make Geneva a Global Hub for Education in Emergencies

How are we helping?

The ICRC has adapted its response to support remote learning for students in a number of ways including:

  • Providing paper and printers in Ukraine to facilitate lesson production
  • Purchase and distribution of tablets in Armenia and Azerbaijan to support marginal communities
  • Payment of broadband and negotiation of extension of services for communities and payment of online courses which are fee paying
  • Support with material and logistics for preparing homework on hard copies in South Sudan
  • Hygiene and sanitation support through provision of handbasins, soap and disinfectants for cleaning schools.
  • Working with respective authorities on ways to ensure conflict and violence affected communities receive the necessary support to continue and resume education (This is an overarching and perhaps introductory point)
  • Publication of child friendly material on how to take care of oneself and family through handwashing, social distancing, and hygiene
  • Support for hotlines for children in distress or under pressure over this period
  • Direct support of school based community kitchens in Venezuela
  • Psychological support to teachers in many communities
  • Printed and developed material for children including books and games explaining COVID-19