Pandemic declaration demands the world unite to focus on those who are invisible and most at risk from COVID-19, warns World Vision

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Highlights

  • 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

Pandemic declaration demands the world unite to focus on those who are invisible and most at risk from COVID-19, warns World Vision 

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 will potentially cause misery.

“The WHO’s pandemic declaration underscores what we at World Vision have been saying since the beginning of the outbreak: we mustn’t forget the world’s most vulnerable,” said Edgar Sandoval Sr., president of World Vision US.

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.

Sandoval adds, “In developing countries, we’re taking steps to ensure children and families can protect themselves from this global health threat. Our Channels of Hope program equips faith leaders to engage their communities when epidemics arise. Our experience with Ebola and Zika viruses has shown that when trusted faith leaders engage with their communities, real breakthroughs can be achieved in slowing the spread of diseases like COVID-19. Now, trusted leaders who’ve been trained are actively combating fear, stigma, and misinformation, and encouraging behaviors like handwashing to slow the spread of the disease.”

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,” said World Vision International’s head of Health and Nutrition, Tom Davis. “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.”

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 be higher due to cramped living conditions and poor hygiene, Davis warned.

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 for COVID-19 to be rapidly met. So far, $66.5m has been pledged but only $31m has been given. World Vision is also calling for funding support for its efforts in China to support 1.3 million people.

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/media-center/ or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.