Greta Thunberg helps launch UN campaign to protect children from COVID-19

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Teen climate-change fighter Greta Thunberg aimed her activism at the new coronavirus on Thursday, helping launch a campaign with the United Nations to protect children from the pandemic by funding essential supplies including soap, masks and gloves.

FILE PHOTO: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg talks to the media before meeting with EU environment ministers in Brussels, Belgium, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

Thunberg donated a $100,000 award she received this month from Danish anti-poverty charity Human Act, which also gave $100,000 to the U.N.’s children’s agency, UNICEF, to kick off its COVID-19 fundraising campaign, UNICEF announced.

“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.”

Children will suffer from food and water shortages, strained health care systems, violence and lost education as a result of COVID-19 and restrictions to curb its spread, she said.

Proceeds from the campaign, which is accepting online donations (here), will be used to provide hygiene supplies and life-saving information, as well as support for healthcare systems, UNICEF said.

In a recent report, the United Nations warned that while children have been largely spared from the direct health effects of the virus, the global economic downturn could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020.

As many as 66 million more children could fall into extreme poverty this year due to the pandemic, adding to the estimated 386 million children in dire destitution in 2019, it said.

“Children and young people are among the most severely impacted by the knock-on effects of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Thunberg - who said in March she had probably contracted a mild case of the virus - donated the funds to UNICEF through her non-profit organization, the Greta Thunberg Foundation, which she set up this year to help battle climate change.

The 17-year-old first attracted attention when she started a solo climate protest outside Sweden’s parliament in 2018 and has since risen to international renown, taking center stage at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos and elsewhere.

In a video posted on Instagram to support the UNICEF coronavirus campaign, she noted that it was always the poorest and most vulnerable people who suffered the most in crises - whether caused by climate change or the novel coronavirus.

“Children are the future and they must be protected,” she said.

Reporting by Matthew Lavietes; additional reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit