In late 2019, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began to spread in the Hubei region of China, resulting in more than 80,000 cases and 3,000 deaths in the country. As of March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic.
The alarming spread of COVID-19 across the world has led SOS Children’s Villages to take various steps to ensure the health and safety of the nearly 70,000 children and young people in our Children’s Villages and youth programs, as well as some 39,000 staff members around the globe.
SOS Children’s Villages, which operates in 136 countries and territories, provides global and regional guidance on the virus to our SOS member associations based on the advisories of the World Health Organization. Local staff also follow the recommendations of their national health authorities to define measures to best protect children and staff that fit within their local context.
During the first wave of the coronavirus, SOS children and staff in China stayed within the village grounds and people entering were carefully monitored. Protective equipment like masks and disinfectant materials were made available to the villages, and staff and caregivers continue to closely monitor the health of all children, young people and staff.
As a precaution, children and staff in some high-risk countries are staying within the Children’s Village, and visits from people outside the village and other facilities are restricted. In all countries, staff have been urged to develop and put in place Emergency Preparedness Plans for their programs.
To ensure the well-being and safety of our SOS children, staff and supporters, SOS Children’s Villages Canada will be postponing donor visits until further notice. All international travel by SOS Canada staff has also been cancelled or postponed as our priority remains the health and safety our program beneficiaries, staff and other vulnerable populations.
SOS Children’s Villages Canada will continue to monitor the situation and provide our donors and partners with updates as they become available.
Learn more about how to stay safe and protect against the current novel coronavirus outbreak:
Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
Guidance on protecting children: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/10-03-2020-covid-19-ifrc-unicef-and-who-issue-guidance-to-protect-children-and-support-safe-school-operations
Q&A based on what the World Health Organization and UNICEF are saying on how to protect children during this time.
How does COVID-19 affect children?
As COVID-19 is a new virus, there is not yet enough information or experience about how it affects children. People of all ages can be infected with the virus, but so far, it has affected children at a lower rate than adults.
How should parents and caregivers react if they notice symptoms?
Caregivers of children with symptoms of COVID-19 should seek medical attention. However, keep in mind that as it is also the flu season in many parts of the world, coughing, sneezing and fever can also be symptomatic of the common cold or flu.
Seeking care early is key, as well as avoiding public spaces to prevent spreading the symptoms to others. In case a child shows signs of illness, caregivers should first contact a health facility/provider and then take their children in if advised.
How can I prepare my child to avoid spreading the virus?
Children should be taught good hygiene behaviours. Frequent handwashing, covering a cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow, and not touching their eyes, noses and mouths if they haven’t properly washed their hands are some measures that should be taught to avoid further spreading the virus.
How can I keep my children from worrying?
The disruption in children’s daily routine may cause them stress. If possible, create opportunities for children to relax and play, and assure them in simple language that they are safe. Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible, especially before bedtime.
What should I tell my children about what’s happening?
The World Health Organization suggests the following as an example of what to say to children: “You have to stay at home/at the hospital because it is safer for you and your friends. I know it is hard (maybe scary or even boring) at times, but we need to follow the rules to keep ourselves and others safe. Things will go back to normal soon.”
Canadians wishing to help children during emergencies can donate through our Mayday Fund.