BAKU, 17 April 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic requires comprehensive measures to protect the safety, well-being and futures of children around the world, as outlined in a global Agenda for Action developed by UNICEF and echoing a new Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Children released yesterday by the United Nations yesterday.
UNICE’s Agenda for Action highlights several critical issues for children that extend beyond the immediate health threats of COVID-19. Many of these issues are already being addressed in Azerbaijan through close collaboration between UNICEF and the Government, according to UNICEF Representative to the Republic of Azerbaijan Edward Carwardine.
“We know that the impact of COVID-19 will be felt by children and families in many areas of their lives –the Agenda for Action focuses on child health and nutrition, education and early learning, protection of children from violence in the home and the psychological stress created by long periods of self-quarantine, and the economic impact on vulnerable sections of the community – in all these areas UNICEF is already working with government and non-government partners in Azerbaijan to deliver practical assistance to minimize these risks,” said Carwardine.
Guidance on simple prevention measures, especially handwashing, has already reached over 1 million people across the country through digital and direct communication, with UNICEF developing and supporting online and physical delivery of these materials with local partners including the Public Health and Reform Centre and the Regional Development Public Union (RiiB).
UNICEF is supporting provision of practical information on infant and young children’s nutrition for parents and is working with the Public Health and Reform Centre of the Ministry of Health, the State Agency for Mandatory Health Insurance and the Regional Development Public Union (RiiB) to develop online counselling and guidance by health professionals for parents on child health, nutrition and early childhood development, as well as assessing how to maintain essential routine child health care such as immunization.
Despite the necessary closure of schools and pre-schools. learning is being maintained. UNICEF is providing technical support to the Ministry of Education for virtual classes and to date has also provided online sessions and activity materials to support early child development in the home for more than 6,000 children.
UNICEF is also working with local partners, including the Azerbaijan Youth Foundation, to mobilize young people to develop online information materials on COVID-19 and its prevention, deliver online life skills training and to enable a planned 150,000 young people to support their own families at home. To date, online counselling and psychological support has also been provided to more than 500 adolescents.
Noting that domestic violence often increases during stressful periods of home isolation, UNICEF is also providing positive parenting guidance to help those caring for children to manage such stress, while existing social worker teams supported by UNICEF have used online and telephone outreach to keep in contact with at least 1,000 vulnerable families.
UNICEF is also offering its support to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population to examine the socio-economic impact of the virus on vulnerable families, especially by ensuring that those with special needs such as one-parent families, families with children who have been moved back home from institutional care and children with disabilities are adequately supported. In addition, UNICEF is supporting the provision of food packages to an initial 1,000 especially vulnerable families in partnership with the Ministry and ASAN Volunteers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a potentially long-lasting impact on vulnerable families and children – UNICEF is encouraged by the wide-ranging response of the Government towards meeting the needs of these families, and we will continue to offer all the support and assistance that we can, including initiatives being supported by the European Union and USAID, to reduce this impact,” said Edward Carwardine.
Note for Editors
Thee Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Children by the United Nations was published on 16 April 2020. While recognising that governments around the world are taking wide-ranging actions to contain and mitigate the pandemic, the Policy Brief urges additional steps to counter unintended effects on children. These include:
- Rollout or expansion of social assistance to families, preferably through the use of universal child grants.
- Securing food supply chains and local food markets, to protect children from a food security crisis.
- Prioritizing the continuity of child-centred services.
- Putting in place specific protections for vulnerable children including migrants, the displaced, refugees, minorities, slum-dwellers, children living with disabilities, children caught in armed conflict, and children in institutions.
- Providing practical support to parents and caregivers, including how to talk about the pandemic with children, how to manage their own mental health and the mental health of their children, and tools to help support their children’s learning.
- Prioritizing the restoration of child services as lockdown measures wind down.
- Ensuring that children, adolescents and young people have access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines as and when they become available.
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