Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg joined with the Danish development organization Human Act on Thursday to launch a global funding campaign that aims to help "save and protect the most vulnerable children" affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Just like the climate crisis, the consequences of the corona pandemic will be most damaging for children in poor countries, in the poorest neighborhoods, and for those already in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations."
—Greta Thunberg, climate activist
Funds raised by the initiative will go to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which warned earlier this month that the pandemic and resulting lockdowns worldwide threaten child survival, health, and safety; could cause millions more children to fall into extreme poverty; and is "exacerbating the learning crisis" due to school closures.
"Like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisis," Thunberg said a statement.
"It will affect all children, now and in the long-term, but vulnerable groups will be impacted the most," she added. "I'm asking everyone to step up and join me in support of UNICEF's vital work to save children's lives, to protect health, and continue education."
The 17-year-old founder of the youth-led climate action movement Fridays for Future expanded on her comments in a post on Instagram Thursday, highlighting how the public health crisis "has a direct effect on millions of children and young people's possibilities to learn, to a lunch meal, and get access to water and sanitation."
While parents and child advocates in some countries have raised concerns about the pandemic leading to a soaring increase in screen time, Thunberg noted that "millions of children do not have access to distance learning. The digital divide is an example of global inequalities that affects the most vulnerable children."
"The poorest and the most vulnerable people are always the hardest hit by a crisis," she wrote. "Just like the climate crisis, the consequences of the corona pandemic will be most damaging for children in poor countries, in the poorest neighborhoods, and for those already in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations."
View this post on Instagram
Very honoured to receive Human Act Award. The prize money - 100 000 USD - will be donated to @unicef . @HumanActDk will match this donation with an additional USD 100,000 for the total sum of USD 200,000. So today we are launching a joint global funding campaign – Let’s Move Humanity for Children in the Fight Against Coronavirus – to support UNICEF´s efforts to protect and save children’s lives during the corona crisis. The poorest and the most vulnerable people are always the hardest hit by a crisis. Just like the climate crisis, the consequences of the corona pandemic will be most damaging for children in poor countries, in the poorest neighborhoods and for those already in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. More than 1,5 billion children are today affected by school closures. This has a direct effect on millions of children and young people’s possibilities to learn, to a lunch meal and get access to water and sanitation. More than 300 million school children rrely on schools as a source of daily nutrition. Millions of children do not have access to distance learning. The digital divide is an example of global inequalities that affects the most vulnerable children. Even if children so far generally have been spared the most severe symptoms of the Covid-19 virus, children's lives and heath are already at risk. This is mainly due to lack of access to healthcare services - both for children and pregnant women - because of vaccination campaigns being suspended as well as lack of nutrition. With the global health care services becoming overwhelmed there will be many additional child deaths in 2020. This is a global crisis and for millions of children the impact will be life long. We need to act now - for the sake of every child. The time is now, and we need your help to protect children. Donate today at https://uni.cf/fight-coronavirus (link in bio). Thank you!
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On the 50th annual Earth Day last week, Thunberg received the Human Act Award 2020, which included $100,000 for her foundation. The Swede kicked off the UNICEF campaign by donating the prize money. Human Act, the Danish group that works to end extreme poverty, matched her donation, also giving $100,000 to the campaign.
"Together we want to inspire all fellow global citizens—from youth and grassroot level to politicians, scientists and high-level decision makers—to stand together in solidarity," Human Act founder Djaffar Shalchi explains on the campaign's page. "No child should be left behind in the face of the pandemic. Please do what you can today."
UNICEF is working to ensure "access and availability of key supplies and services for children, women, and vulnerable populations," according to the agency. Its efforts to limit the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact on kids range from scaling up messages about handwashing and helping maintain essential immunization to supporting distance learning.
The U.N. agency is also "providing mental health and psychosocial support to children and families affected" as well as "supporting governments with the procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, including gowns, gloves, and masks as well as oxygen concentrators and medicines."
UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore took to Twitter Thursday to point out how the effects of the pandemic have impacted children and young people and to celebrate Thunberg's partnership with the agency.
"The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest struggle the world has seen in generations," Fore said in a statement. "Children and young people are among the most severely impacted by the knock-on effects of COVID-19, so it is only natural that they would want to do something about it."
"Through her activism, Greta Thunberg has proven that young people are ready to take a stand and lead change in the world," Fore added. "UNICEF is very pleased that Greta and her supporters have not only chosen to take a stand against this pandemic, but to do so in partnership with UNICEF."