UNICEF Ireland Chief anticipates humanitarian disaster as Covid-19 spreads

UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power has written an open letter to the people of Ireland as Covid-19 continues to spread around the world, endangering those who are most vulnerable amongst us.

During this critical period, Covid–19 reminds us all about the essential make-up of the Irish DNA. Our generosity of spirit is at the very heart of our national DNA and defines who we are as a nation. That generosity is well recognised throughout the world and at this key moment in the world’s history we need to demonstrate that more than ever.

We are now a nation in crisis. But, I fear an even bigger storm is brewing in many countries throughout the world with poor health systems. While the Irish health system faces well known challenges, I have witnessed with my own eyes health systems in some countries which are infinitely less prepared to cope with the ravages of Covid-19 than ours.

Workers load medical aid equipment onto trucks at the Soekarno Hatta airport cargo terminal in Jakarta, Indonesia on 21 March, 2020. The medical equipment, including items such as masks, gloves, thermometers and personal protective equipment, is the first of two shipments from UNICEF’s warehouse in Copenhagen to support Indonesia’s health authorities in the response to COVID-19 © UNICEF/Wilander

Last year I spent some time with UNICEF in the Democratic Republic of Congo and witnessed, at first hand, another deadly virus – Ebola. Despite the fact that Ebola is much less transmissible than Covid-19 it killed over 3,000 people in a very small part of a remote area of one single country. I am frightened to think what will happen when the full force and impact of Coronavirus hits crisis countries, particularly in Africa.

So, while we grapple with one of the biggest crises ever to face this country, please let us not forget the generosity of spirit which defines us as a nation. We all wish to show solidarity to our neighbours here at home, but in this globalised world, Coronavirus has demonstrated one truism – everybody on planet Earth really is our neighbour.

As this crisis gains a stranglehold in Africa our UNICEF teams in over 155 countries will be on the front line to protect families who are least able to cope against this deadly virus. UNICEF will be calling on the Irish people to show solidarity with some of the most vulnerable people in the world, in the same way that we are currently showing solidarity here at home.

Our work for children is now more critical than ever. With millions of children uprooted, affected by wars, dying from preventable causes, or missing out on essentials vaccines and services, the need for support has never been greater. Hundreds of millions of children around the world will likely face increasing threats to their safety and wellbeing as their loved ones succumb to this virus.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Power

Executive Director

UNICEF Ireland