COVID-19: The International Federation, UNICEF and WHO publish a guide to protect children and support safety in school operations.

The orientation includes practical actions and checklists for administrators, teachers, parents, and children.

March 10, 2020

Joint press release.

GENEVA / NEW YORK

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have today released new guidelines to help protect children and schools from transmission of COVID-19 virus. In-depth detailed data guide and practical checklists to keep schools safe. We also provide advice to national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans in educational facilities.

In the event of school closings, the guide presents recommendations to mitigate the possible negative effects of the virus on children’s learning and well-being. This means having transmission plans for the continuity of learning, including the possibility of implementing distance learning methods such as online education strategies and radio broadcasts of academic content, as well as access to all children. These necessary plans also include the necessary measures for the eventual reopening of the schools in safe conditions.

In cases where schools remain open, and to ensure that children and their families are protected and informed, the guide calls for the following steps to be taken:

Provide children with information on how to protect themselves;

Promote best hand washing and hygiene practices, and provide hygiene materials;

Clean and disinfect school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities, and increase air flow and ventilation.

 

In spite of the guide’s focus on countries where COVID-19 transmission has already been confirmed, it remains relevant in other contexts. Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, at school, and in their community by providing the means to talk to others about how to prevent the spread of virus. Maintaining the safe operation of schools, or reopening them after they close, requires taking into account many issues, but if done properly it can promote public health.

 

For example, school safety guidelines applied in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola virus disease outbreak from 2014 to 2016 helped prevent transmission of the virus in schools.

 

UNICEF encourages schools – both open schools and schools that help students through distance learning – to provide comprehensive support for their students. Schools should provide children with vital information on handwashing and other measures to protect themselves and their families; facilitate mental health support. Also help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be friendly to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.

The new guidance also offers helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as for children and students themselves. These measures include:

  • Look after children´s health and prevent them from going to school if they are sick,
  • Encourage children to ask questions and express their concerns and cough or sneeze over a tissue or elbow,
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose.