UN's COVID-19 response must reach girls, women and refugees

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The United Nation’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan shows clear commitment to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Now, funds and relief efforts must reach girls, women, refugees and the internally displaced.

Plan International welcomes the United Nation’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, issued on March 25, for its clear commitment to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But to be effective the $2 billion coordinated response plan must be properly funded by donors and actually reach girls, women, refugees and the internally displaced, the people who will be most affected by the pandemic across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The plan’s initiatives include delivering testing equipment, medical supplies, and launching public information campaigns.


Plan International welcomes the focus on maintaining access to education where possible. School closures, quarantines and lockdowns interrupt education, increase risks to physical and mental health, and reduce access to health services.

“When schools are closed and girls and young women are shut up at home, they face much greater risks of exploitation and gender-based violence,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.

“Disease outbreaks and the measures taken to control them also increase the risks of violence, abuse or neglect as protection systems break down, carers become ill and the economic impacts prompt negative coping strategies such as survival sex and child marriage,” said Albrectsen.

Plan International also welcomes the UN’s recognition of the challenges of hygiene maintenance for refugees and other internally displaced people, and its commitment to install handwashing stations in camps and settlements.


The UN plan highlights the importance of not diverting funds from existing humanitarian responses to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the ebola outbreak, health and other resources were diverted away from routine care, reducing the already limited access of girls and young women to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as maternal, new-born and child health services.

Colin Rogers, Plan International’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response, said: “Plan International is adapting its programmes to respond to the crisis and is working to support those at risk, including refugees and children affected by conflict. We remain committed to playing a role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and to reducing the impact on the most vulnerable members of society.”

Plan International urges governments and other humanitarian agencies to ensure that public health information reaches vulnerable and hidden communities, especially girls and young women. Girls, particularly those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be disproportionately affected by the secondary economic impacts of the outbreak.

Plan International is calling on all governments to work closely with the UN, INGO and NGOs to ensure humanitarian access and supplies reach those most in need.