COVID- 19 increases risk of child abuse and exploitation for refugee and internally displaced children - World Vision

Syrian refugee boy in camp in Jordan
Friday, March 27, 2020
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  • Impact of service suspension on the world’s most vulnerable children must be understood
  • World Vision calls for priority funding to support child protection systems and services to enable them to respond to the effects of COVID-19
  • Refugee children and those living in conflict zones must be prioritised by international response

As essential measures are employed to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 cause the interruption of already stretched child protection systems in refugee camps and fragile countries, some of the world’s most vulnerable children will be placed in unprecedented risk, says World Vision.

30 million children have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict, violence and persecution and are now already living in precarious and insecure conditions in low-income and fragile countries. The impact of restricted freedom of movement and of service suspension or alteration on these vulnerable children must be fully understood and responded to.

“High population density and inadequate housing conditions, including over-crowded urban, camp-based and informal settlements mean that measures to prevent and respond to COVID-19, such as quarantine and social distancing, are simply not possible.  So populations forced to live in such places will find it very difficult to protect themselves from Coronavirus.” said World Vision International’s Global Director of Humanitarian Operations, Isabel Gomes.

“On top of this, children are now no longer able to access many of the services that were available to them before this outbreak. COVID-19 threatens to not only directly affect children but also act as a major multiplier of child protection threats such as physical and sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence. COVID-19 is also likely to increase the number of separated and unaccompanied minors as elder care givers are at high risk of mortality from the virus.”

World Vision is on ground working in over crowded urban areas, high-risk camps and with host countries to prevent the transmission of the virus and to mitigate the unseen effects on the most vulnerable. The international aid agency’s frontline response team are introducing preventative measures, such as hygiene kits, quality facemasks and sanitizer, sanitation training, protection and education.

“As ever, our main aim is to protect vulnerable children and their families from the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 we had predicted. Apart from escalating our direct solutions such as hygiene and sanitation training, we are also working with faith leaders and governments to limit misinformation and encourage a focus on the most vulnerable, particular amidst limits to foreign access in many host countries.”

World Vision is calling for the international community to prioritise COVID-19 funding for child protection and to also prioritise conflict-affected, internally displaced and refugee populations in their responses. COVID-19 prevention and response programmes, including healthcare and sanitation services, must also be made available to all children and communities regardless of status. Alternative education mechanisms should be put in place immediately and traditional education services must be made available as soon as it is safe to do so.

 “While we must employ new methods to tackle an evolving epidemic and tightening restrictions, World Vision’s efforts and passion to protect refugees and internally displaced communities, particularly children and their families, go ahead despite challenges. It is vital that the world protects these children from bearing the burden of this virus and we continue to urge world leaders and government to join in a unified response.”


Editor Notes:

For further information or to organise and interview please contact:

Niamh Cooper |  Director of Media and Social Media Engagement | World Vision International (Based in Ireland)

Email: | Skype: Niamh.cooper5 | Phone: +353 87 942 3371

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.  For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @WorldVision