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COVID-19: Our response

COVID-19

In uncertain times, we are reminded of the greater role we all play to keep our communities safe and healthy. At Plan International Canada, we are prioritizing the health and safety of our employees, donors, Youth Ambassadors, volunteers and stakeholders, while ensuring business continuity for our important work around the world.

Global APPROACH

Plan International Canada has over 80 years of experience in international development and humanitarian response and remains committed to children’s rights and equality for girls as the world navigates and responds to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Youth looking at a coranavirus poster

Plan International is responding to address the immediate and future impacts of COVID-19 both in the communities and refugee settings where we work, but also at the national stage. We have been asked by local Government Ministries and partners to help them roll out an effective and comprehensive strategy to prevent and mitigate COVID-19, especially for those most vulnerable.

As a grassroots organization, we are very concerned how marginalized communities and groups can cope with the wide-ranging health, social and economic impact of this crisis. The consequences in poorer countries with fragile health systems could be catastrophic.

With experience in medical emergencies from cholera to Ebola, and recognized expertise from Global Affairs Canada for our leadership in addressing the health and sexual rights of women and girls, Plan is able to support and strengthen local community groups, leaders and women’s groups on how to prevent infection, identify symptoms, and know how to seek services.

As Canada’s only implementing agency of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we are well placed to respond to this health crisis and ensure health systems in the communities where we work have urgent equipment, training and information, and to assist communities with management of the COVID-19 outbreak. We understand that the social isolation and closure of schools have difficult impacts on women and girls, and leave them vulnerable to abuse and violence, child labour and child marriage.

Our emergency response

Refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) are at greatest risk due to the pandemic given the often-overcrowded living conditions, limited health care, and restrictions on movements. More than 50 per cent of these refugees and IDP’s are women and girls.

Plan International’s COVID-19 response within these settings and beyond focuses on life-saving health and hygiene, enabling learning, engaging networks of community and youth-led agents, while being true to our values of accountability and gender equality.

Our experience shows girls and young women are particularly hit hard in health emergencies.

Ongoing and upcoming activities include:

  • Constructing sanitary handwashing stations and providing soap
  • Distributing hygiene and dignity kits to vulnerable households, female healthcare workers and adolescent girls. These kits include items such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, washcloths, laundry soap, menstrual hygiene products, underwear and diapers.
  • Improving access to clean water, especially for handwashing 
  • Providing resources for teachers and parents to support in-home learning due to school closures.
  • Communicating lifesaving health and hygiene information that is culturally appropriate, child-friendly and gender sensitive on different platforms (TV, radio, social media, etc.)  
  • Purchasing and distributing medical resources and supplies including personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, gowns).
  • Advocating for continued access of medical services including sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for adolescent girls and young women.
  • Engaging leaders, teachers, parents and healthcare providers on the heightened dangers of trafficking, child marriage or abuse that children face during a crisis.

The need for rigorous protection and safeguarding of all children, and of girls and women from gender-based violence, sexual and intimate partner violence, as well as harmful practices such as forced marriage and prostitution, trafficking, child labour and other forms of exploitation, must be emphasized and prioritized in all policies, information, guidance and response.

When COVID-19 hits countries already facing complex emergencies related to conflict, food insecurity or disease, the impacts can be devasting. We are prioritizing support for these hard-hit communities.

In Burkina Faso for example, a country already facing crisis as a result of armed insurgency and now also hard hit by COVID-19, our local emergency response team has assured access to essential items while also doubling down on hygiene and health messages.

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Urgent and Emerging Concerns

As COVID-19 sweeps across the world, Plan International Canada is particular worried about the immediate health impacts, as well as the secondary impacts it will pose on already overstretched health and support systems, on education systems as schools start to close, and on job losses as markets and opportunities for youth close down. The psycho-social impact on children and families is substantial as they face uncertain futures and further pressures on their daily lives.

The following are the urgent and emerging issues that our response teams are preparing to address:

  • School closures around the world resulting in immense numbers of out-of-school children, over 850 million children and youth – roughly half of the world’s student population.
  • Inaccessibility to vulnerable populations including refugee camps and internally displaced person (IDPs) settlements due to country-lock downs and social distancing measures.
  • COVID-19 stigma that could prevent sick individuals, especially women and girls, from seeking treatment due to potential community backlash.
  • The expected economic impacts as the result of national lockdowns and social distancing measures and how this will affect the poorest of the poor.
  • The devastating impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls in particular, including
    • increased risk of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence due to close proximity and distancing for support structures,
    • increased burden of work as well as enhanced exposure to the virus due to their caregiving role in their homes and as they form the bulk of frontline health workers,
    • engagement in unsafe informal and precarious work and survival or transactional sex as livelihoods start to diminish
    • reduced decision-making power within households limiting their access to health care, and to afford transportation costs
  • Insufficient personal protection equipment, infection preventions facilities for health care providers along with lack of appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at healthcare facilities
  • Multiple and complex responses where pre-existing drivers of poverty (such as conflict,, natural disasters, gender inequality and discrimination, environmental degradation, food insecurity, malnutrition, poor health, water and sanitation infrastructure and services, low education level, limited social safety nets, unequal access to accurate information), compound the effects of the pandemic on institutions and populations.
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Few examples of our COVID-19 response activities

Our Country Offices around the world are proactively responding to the crisis to help prevent, mitigate and respond to the local context of the pandemic.

Zambia

Map of Zambia
  • Raising awareness among women, men, and children on sexual and gender-based violence through mobile public address messaging, posters and flyers.
  • Providing dignity kits and raising awareness on menstrual hygiene for 3,500 women and girls.
  • Provision of hand-washing facilities, water storage and soap for washing at health centres, community centres and local markets.

Egypt

Map of Egypt
  • Once identified, share which psychosocial services are available to community members and how they can benefit from them.
  • Following-up within communities to identify any child-family separation due to quarantine to appropriately intervene and provide childcare

Jordan

Map of Jordan
  • In Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, we are working with volunteers to distribute handicraft kits which contain the materials needed to make face masks.
  • We are also providing support to teachers and parents of Kindergarten students; via digital learning materials the children can access whilst learning centres are temporarily closed.

Bangladesh

Map of Bangladesh
  • In Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, we have trained 1,000 staff, teachers, volunteers and case workers on hygiene practices and repurposed their roles to focus on raising awareness around hygiene and health of in the communities where they live and work.

As our response continues to evolve, we remain committed to working with teachers, parents, healthcare providers and partners to ensure communities have the support they need during the COVID-19 outbreak, with gender equality as a foundational element of our approach.

National Approach

  • We’ve created a COVID-19 Task Force to monitor the situation and ensure we are closely following public health guidance issued by national governments and health authorities.
  • We’ve cancelled all international travel.
  • We’ve paused all in-person fundraising.
  • We’ve closed our offices and implemented a work from home policy to support the Canadian public health efforts of containment and minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread in our communities.
  • We’ve implemented business continuity plans to prevent significant interruptions to our work for children, especially girls, around the world.

In this period of uncertainty, these actions will provide a strong foundation for our Canadian employees to continue our work to advance children’s rights and equality for girls around the world.

Faqs

  • What is Plan International Canada doing to respond to COVID-19?

  • How is COVID-19 affecting your day-to-day operations?

  • What are your concerns for children, especially girls, and those who work in the field?

  • How will you continue to work towards your commitment to advance children’s rights and equality for girls?

  • What can I do?

  • I have more questions

  • Are there any sponsored children affected by COVID-19?

  • How does the travel suspension impact sponsored children?

  • Can I write to my sponsored child?

  • When can I expect to receive communications from my sponsored child?

  • What are you doing in affected countries?

Ways to Take Action

Read our COVID-19 Featured Blog

Covid-19 Health workers wear protective gear

Gender and coronavirus: why women are bearing the brunt of COVID-19

Gender norms often influence what is expected of us in our daily lives. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no different – gender is determining the ways in which both men and women are impacted by the coronavirus. According to current statistics, men are faring worse than women when it comes to fatalities from the new coronavirus.

LEARN MORE

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Girl in blue shawl

Support our efforts

As we navigate this situation, we are grateful for the support of our dedicated donors whose contributions are enabling us to play our part in managing this global pandemic. For more information about how you can help further reach and protect children in need, please visit plancanada.ca/donate.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our team if you have any questions about our approach or are interested in additional ways to help. Our Donor Care team will be available through Live Chat on our website and via email at info@plancanada.ca