Today, UNICEF Canada sent letters to the Premiers of Canada and the federal Minister of Finance Bill Morneau urging them to consider the possible impacts on children and youth and take appropriate steps to protect the right of every child during and after the pandemic of COVID-19.
UNICEF Canada recommends that the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments:
- Provide funding for sufficient hygiene supplies, procedures and information for public places where children gather including schools, day cares, recreation centres, youth shelters and group homes.
- Provide guidance to parents for monitoring children’s health and keeping them home from school if they are ill.
- Facilitate continued access to education during school closures to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options.
- Support children to cope with stress and anxiety by providing appropriate, targeted information and resources for parents and young people of different age groups.
- Support partners to provide additional staff and programming for family and child help lines and for community youth programs during the pandemic.
- Provide appropriate and regular information to students, encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns. Having information and facts about COVID-19 will help diminish students’ fears and anxieties around the disease and support their ability to cope with any secondary impacts in their lives.
- Provide psychosocial support to those affected, which may include additional staffing of school support workers, particularly in the weeks following school re-opening.
- Provide funding for alternative solutions for children who rely on school lunches and meals provided by other community programs.
- Help ensure the orderly transport of sufficient food to small and remote communities and in urban “food deserts”, which can severely affect children in these communities.
- Provide emergency funds to support youth drop-in spaces and other safe spaces for young people in the community, who are at heightened risk of exploitation and other harm. Children may be alone at home or in public spaces if parents are ill or unable to provide direct supervision due to employment or other demands.
- Prioritize the safety and reunification of parents and children and apply any quarantines with specific measures to avoid or minimize the length of family separation, and provide safe alternatives for children. Children may be separated from family members due to hospitalization, border/travel restrictions or medical isolation/quarantine of parents, presenting protection and mental and physical health risks to children.
- Provide emergency income support and use every means available to incentivize employers to protect workers’ employment, including youth employees. Many families with children have insecure or irregular employment. The loss of income and jobs will severely affect many aspects of children’s lives, including nutrition, health, housing and safety.
- Continue to provide accurate information through effective channels about how adults and children can keep themselves and others safe, avoid discrimination, and support parents and children in their communities particularly during school closures and other service or program shutdowns. Misinformation during times of a health crisis can spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization. It can also result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus.
- Increase International Development Assistance to the countries Canada supports that are hit hardest by the outbreak of COVID-19, with a recommended focus on:
- WASH interventions
- Emergency nutrition supplementation and breastfeeding promotion
- Procurement and delivery of essential medicines and vaccines
- Antenatal care
- Child-friendly disease surveillance and testing
- Health communications and access to information
- Support for efforts to scale up the number of health care workers and midwives
- Access to essential lifesaving medicines and equipment
UNICEF will continue to adapt its strategy as more information emerges about the disease, the extent of the outbreak and its effects on children and families. UNICEF Canada appreciates the efforts, and difficult decisions, of all governments in Canada to contain the spread of the virus. We stand ready to be a partner to governments, provide advice and support efforts to stop the transmission of COVID-19.