Thunberg launched the campaign by donating the prize money she received from Human Act for her climate activism, contributing $100,000 to the cause. Human Act has matched the donation.
“Like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisis,” Thunberg said in 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.”
There have been instances of hospitalizations and deaths of people under 18, showing young people are not automatically spared the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Yet children and young people appear to be more likely to develop milder reactions than older generations.
But while children may be less susceptible to the physical health issues of COVID-19, a report from the United Nations published earlier this month said they could be among the biggest victims of the pandemic.
Experts have warned children across the world are feeling the secondary impacts of the virus, particularly in terms of its social and economic consequences and the repurcussions of mitigation measures, such as social distancing. Refugee children and those living in the poorest communities are expected to be the worst hit.
Some striking findings published in the report include an estimate that between 42 and 66 million children are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The knock-on economic effects of the outbreak could result in hundreds of thousands of more child deaths by the end of 2020, erasing two to three years of progress in this area in a year. Measles immunization campaigns have been suspended in several countries, placing children at risk of a preventable disease that has been on the rise in recent years.
The report also highlights the predicament of children in volatile home situations, where they may not have access to proper meals or could be vulnerable to domestic abuse, as well as the problem of school closures, which affects more than 1.5 billion children worldwide.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore described the pandemic as “the greatest struggle the world has seen in generations.”
Fore explained: “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. 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.”