Latest Coronavirus News

Latest News

Child labour increasing

Why child labour is on the rise around the world

Children are bearing the brunt of the knock-on effects of COVID 19, according to non-governmental organisation SOS Children’s Villages in Africa, with many families resorting to child labour to meet basic needs due to the financial shock induced by the pandemic.

“The last two decades have seen significant strides in the fight against child labour. However, the COVID-19 pandemic poses very real risks of backtracking," says Benoit Piot, the organisation’s International Director. His concerns echo those expressed by the International Labour Organization and UNICEF, and mirror the findings of Word Vision’s Aftershocks report.

“Despite some medical evidence suggesting that children are less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, the pandemic’s toll on the most vulnerable children goes beyond health, and the devastating impact of that could be long-lasting.”

Experts warn that the COVID-19 pandemic could force millions of children in developing nations out of classrooms for good and into the workforce, reversing two decades of hard-won progress against underage labor and exposing vulnerable girls and boys to hazardous conditions, physical stress, emotional trauma and exploitation.

Months-long economic lockdowns and the threat of a prolonged global recession have worsened hardships for poor families, especially those who depend on informal jobs and lack social protections. In low- and middle-income countries, the number of children living in poverty could rise 15 per cent by the end of 2020 to 672 million, according to UNICEF.

With the latest data suggesting that every African country has recorded an infection as of mid-May, Mr Piot added "what the pandemic has laid bare are the challenges we face in protecting and promoting the well-being of the most vulnerable children and young people."

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Reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Cox's Bazar

New fears emerge as COVID claims first life in world’s largest refugee camp

Protection measures in the world’s largest refugee camp have taken on even greater significance, after it recorded its first COVID-19 death.

World Vision Bangladesh has confirmed that a 71 year-old male Rohingya refugee has died from the virus, raising fears about the potential for the pandemic to take hold in the densely populated Cox’s Bazar refugee camp.

“This is tragic news, but sadly not unexpected,” says Rachel Wolff, World Vision Response Director in Cox’s Bazar. “COVID-19 has claimed hundreds of lives in Bangladesh and now it has struck in the camps. The encouraging fact is that NGOs and UN agencies have slowed the virus spread by ramping-up prevention measures in one of the most densely populated places on Earth. This will be even more critical moving forward.”

As of May 31, there were 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the refugee population of 860,000 in the camps, according to the World Health Organization. In the wider Cox’s Bazar district, 702 cases are confirmed with 13 deaths. More than 49,500 cases are reported across Bangladesh with 672 deaths. Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in both India and Bangladesh, hampering emergency aid efforts, as relief teams rush to provide help while protecting themselves and others against COVID-19. But numbers are expected to rise, particularly since Cyclone Amphan tore through the region in late May, forcing many thousands across the country into crowded storm shelters. No lives were lost in Cox’s Bazar, but the storm affected 7000 households, partially levelling almost 1500 makeshift homes.

Ms Wolff said World Vision was weighing the risks of re-opening much needed services for refugees, while keeping them safe in the makeshift city of Cox’s Bazar. For instance, World Vision plans to re-open its 42 community kitchens where 1000 women cook in shifts daily, but not before the aid organisation has provided refresher training on social distancing.

Humanitarian health workers in Cox’s Bazar are working to ensure that testing is available to refugees and that those identified as COVID-19 positive have adequate facilities in place to care for them. Contact tracing and quarantine measures are being conducted with those who may have been exposed.

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The surprising country that's becoming a new epicentre of the COVID crisis

Brazil has become the second-most infected country in the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold in Latin America’s largest nation.

Brazil has registered almost 377,000 confirmed cases and more than 23,500 deaths as of May 26. And as these figures continue to rise, the most vulnerable - Indigenous people, riverside dwellers, inhabitants of favelas, migrants and refugees - are at extreme risk.

The state of Amazonas, located in the north of Brazil, is presenting the most worrying data. With just under four million people, the state is 13th in population size, but has already jumped to the fourth position in total number of deaths by COVID-19 in the country.

“Hospitals have run out of beds, health workers are overwhelmed and there are horrific scenes of mass graves. This is making it difficult for families and even for funeral homes to provide quick and timely services”, said Luis Corzo, World Vision Brazil response director.

Manaus, the state capital, is a gateway to communities across the Amazon basin, and if the virus spreads, it could decimate many vulnerable indigenous groups and riverside dwellers, World Vision says. World Vision is on the ground there, working with the Presbyterian Church to provide nutrition, sanitation kits and promoting behavioural change to prevent infections.

“Most of the people living in the Amazonas’ region need to move because they work in the informal sector or are unemployed,” explained Joao Diniz, World Vision regional leader, Latin America and the Caribbean. “In this scenario, people have to choose between dying from COVID-19 or starving.

Amazonas is also one of the three states where World Vision has worked with migrant populations coming from Venezuela, including indigenous people. In addition to Amazonas, the NGO provides humanitarian help to migrants in the states of São Paulo and Roraima, the main gateway for Venezuelan migrants into the country. Official data indicates that 6 per cent of Brazil’s population – or around 11 million people - live in slums.

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More girls at risk of early marriage due to COVID-19

How many more girls face the risk of child marriage due to COVID-19?

Up to 85 million more children are at risk of child marriage, child labour and physical and emotional violence over the next three months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A World Vision report, Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm, has concluded that coronavirus posed a huge threat to the safety and wellbeing of children worldwide as vital isolation measures forced them indoors with their abusers, took them out of school and ravaged household incomes.

World Vision International President and CEO Andrew Morley said, on average, one billion children are estimated to experience violence each year, but the pandemic was amplifying that figure, and ramping up the risk of unreported violence. “We know from bitter experience that in times of crisis, the risks of violence faced by the most vulnerable children are compounded,” Mr Morley said. “We saw this recently with Ebola, and we’re concerned that the coronavirus pandemic poses a new and grave global threat to children’s safety as quarantine measures isolate families, and economic and social pressures take their toll. We believe that as many as 85 million more children could suffer, and urge global leaders to prioritise protecting the rights of children in addition to curbing the spread of COVID-19.”

The report reviews information from World Vision programs, domestic violence protection reports from around the world and the recent surges in calls to child helplines. It also draws on extensive staff experience in previous crises, such as the Ebola crisis in west Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Bangladesh, April’s national impact and needs assessment - compiled by a range of stakeholders including World Vision – revealed beatings by parents or guardians had increased by 42 per cent, calls to the child helpline rose by 40 per cent, and 50 per cent of those interviewed said the safety and security of girls was an issue in lockdown.

World Vision also predicts an increase in child marriage and child labour as financial difficulties take a toll on struggling families.

"It has been recently estimated that there will be an additional 13 million child marriages over the next 10 years due to COVID-19, adding to the 150 million already expected to occur in that time period,” said World Vision International Global Leader for Advocacy, Dana Buzducea. “Schools and community centres can no longer protect vulnerable children in the way they would usually. “As a result, our report shows that reported incidents of child abuse and violence have spiked in numerous countries since lockdown measures were imposed.”

Ms Buzducea said World Vision’s experience showed that most child marriages will occur in the years immediately following crises, with the potential to see at least four million more girls married in the next two years.


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Afghanistan is a great risk of COVID-19

The country where COVID-19 could be 'more deadly than war'

Afghanistan is bracing for an explosion of COVID-19 cases that could cause even more casualties than the war that has raged since the September 11 attacks.

As millions of Afghan migrant workers stream home from virus-ridden Iran, and many residents ignore lockdown restrictions, the country is facing a perfect storm of conditions for the virus to flourish. Doctors working in a health system crippled by conflict are worried the pandemic may cause "even more deaths than 18 years of war", according to the ABC. One migrant worker, Hamid, 25, who returned home from Iran last month, told the national broadcaster: "When I arrived (home), nobody knew what COVID-19 was.”

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have flocked across the border were neither tested nor quarantined, despite Iran recording more than 100,000 cases, Australian Associated Press reports. The news service said there were anecdotal reports of dozens dying of COVID-19. It comes as the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has raised the alarm after one-third of 500 random coronavirus tests in the capital Kabul came back positive. The results fuelled fears of widespread undetected infections, with the MoPH predicting numbers will surge as more tests become available.

The nation had confirmed 4687 cases and 122 deaths, but as only limited testing has been carried out, actual cases numbers are expected to be much higher. Spokesman Wahid Mayar encouraged residents to stay home with many flouting lockdown rules. More than 150 health workers are among those who have tested positive, and the MoPH expects to extend quarantine restrictions until the end of Ramadan on May 23.

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Hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19

World Vision reveals how long it expects the COVID-19 crisis to last

World Vision has more than quadrupled its global COVID-19 appeal to $US350 million, as the organisation revealed it could be responding to the crisis for at least another 18 months.

World Vision also warned that unless the international community responded immediately and prioritised the world’s most vulnerable in the fight against COVID-19, the progress of the past 30 years in halving child death rates could be halved.

Detailing the largest response in the charity’s 70-year history. World Vision International president and CEO Andrew Morley said the organisation had never witnessed an emergency of this scale.

“For the first time in our 70-year history we are transforming our focus in every single country to an emergency response, so we can support those who are most vulnerable to combat this deadly virus and its aftershocks,” Mr Morley said.

The child-focussed aid agency has beefed up its global appeal from $US80 million ($AU124 million) to US$350m ($AU548 million) in a response that reflects the serious and protracted nature of the pandemic in vulnerable communities.

The ambitious response plan will roll out in more than 70 countries, with the aim of reaching 72 million people – half of them children. It fears the virus could run rampant through some of the poorest, most fragile and dangerous parts of the world, where advanced health services are almost non-existent and where lockdowns and social distancing are impossible for people who live in slums, settlements or crowded refugee camps.

Mr Morley said child mortality rates had more than halved since 1990, but this could now start to increase again if the international community did not adequately respond to the crisis. Their call comes only a week after the World Food Program warned that the number of people facing starvation could double if dramatic action was not taken to stem the spread of the virus in vulnerable countries.

“World Vision is deeply concerned that the impacts of COVID-19 could permanently scar the development of a generation of the world's most vulnerable children. Since 1990, the number of children dying from preventable causes such as poverty, hunger, and disease has more than halved.

“Unless the international community prioritises countries which are at greatest long-term risk from the impacts of COVID-19, this pandemic will leave millions of girls and boys poorer, hungrier, sicker, less educated and exposed to more violence and abuse.

“We have one chance to get this right. We must come together and respond to this global pandemic by supporting everyone impacted across the globe, especially the most vulnerable.”

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Rohingya refugee child

How refugees in the world’s most crowded refugee camp are battling to keep COVID-19 at bay

Coronavirus is exacerbating inequality between nations, as well as within nations. This is especially the case for displaced people. Listen to Rachel Wolff, World Vision's Senior Response Director, who works with the Rohingya refugees.

Kenyan woman struggles to put food on the table

Woman resorts to cooking stones for her children: The heartwrenching fallout from COVID-19

Kenyans have rallied to the aid of a widow filmed cooking stones for her eight children to make them believe she was preparing food for them.

Read more from the BBC.


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Social distancing is difficult in places like Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh

When social distancing is a luxury

“How can you have social distancing of two metres or four metres when you’ve got 30 centimetres between tents?”

That’s the compelling point World Vision International President and CEO Andrew Morley made in an ABC News interview in April.

Our staff are on the ground in camps like Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 850,000 people. We’re helping Rohingya refugees protect themselves from COVID-19, building on the strong community engagement and development we’ve achieved over several years.

The world’s largest and most crowded refugee camp

Rachel Wolff, who works in Cox’s Bazar as our Senior Response Director, also discussed the challenges on ABC Radio National.

“The population density of the main camp is more than double that of downtown Melbourne,” she said. It’s common for 10 people to share a tent and for up to 20 to share one toilet.

At the time of writing, the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the camps. There are also confirmed cases in the wider district.

The action we’re taking

Handwashing stations equipped with soap and water have been set up in all camp facilities. We’re also sharing prevention messaging, including advising elderly refugees to stay indoors and promoting social distancing as much as practicable.

“Talking to religious leaders; getting information out on loudspeakers in the Rohingya language; making sure that correct information can reach children, men and women …. this is going to save lives,” Wolff said.

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Mary,  a mother of 4, selling tea to support her family

This woman has one source of income – and now it’s under threat from COVID-19

Like so many women in South Sudan, 22-year-old Mary relies on selling tea to support her four children. But if borders close and the tea shops are closed, what will Mary and others like her do?

Mary sells tea just outside a camp for internally-displaced people in Juba for over 3,000 people who receive support from World Vision and the World Food Programme through food distribution. It is her only source of income, earning USD$4-8 on a good day. Without the tea shop, “We will not eat”, she says.

Resilient and hopeful

If the spread of coronavirus isn’t contained, vulnerable children, the elderly and those with disabilities, will experience the greatest hardship. Many South Sudanese have already overcome enormous challenges with their resilience and hope tested many, many times. Unfortunately there are thousands of ‘Marys’ who will face the same hardships if the spread of the coronavirus is not contained.

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Artenisa being provided with hazelnut seedlings

The innovative solution to solve the problem of COVID-fuelled food shortages

"We take care of the seedlings, you give us hope” - are the inspiring words of Artenisa, a 15 year-old girl from an Albanian village. Her family is one of 62 families/farmers in an Albanian village that have been provided with hazelnut seedlings to develop sustainable economic opportunities.

World Vision Albania in coordination with local authorities, identified families in the most urgent needs and supported farmers with 4600 hazelnut seedlings that have been distributed in selected villages.

Coronavirus isolation and its impact

Coronavirus related isolation has also caused difficulties for families in rural areas. In addition to financial difficulties to cope with costs of planting land or beekeeping, now they find it hard to go to the market to buy seedlings, beekeeping equipment and seeds for planting. These families need sustainable economic opportunities to overcome this situation as soon as possible.

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