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COVID-19: The importance of multi-sectoral engagement

This article introduces the key considerations for multi-sectoral coordination in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 – a multi-sectoral response

Working with communities, governments and humanitarian sectors

“The prevention of and response to infectious disease outbreaks requires close coordination and collaboration between several sectors.” (CPMS)

A multi-sectoral response:

  • Requires engagement and coordination across sectors at the community, government and humanitarian sector levels.
  • Ensures that children, families and caregivers’ needs are addressed holistically within all levels of society.
  • Leads to better outcomes for children.

What are the key considerations for multi-sectoral interventions and coordination?

We should ensure that:

  • All personnel—across all sectors—are trained on: safe identification of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children; gender, inclusion and disability issues; referral and documentation of child protection cases; child-friendly communication; and child safeguarding policies and systems.
  • Personnel who interact with children and families are trained on the psychosocial impact of the crisis and the support needed. Where possible a Psychological First Aid approach can be used.
  • Updated referral pathways and procedures are in place, reinforced and adapted to the situation and all actors across sectors are aware of them.
  • Up to date safe, accessible, child-friendly complaints and feedback mechanisms that staff and beneficiaries across sectors are aware of.
  • Creative community mechanisms for children and families to signal their support and protection needs are developed and implemented across sectors.
  • Engagement and collaboration across sectors on safety audits to assess and address children’s protection needs at all facilities and within all programmes.
  • Integration of child protection messaging including handling caregiver stress; children’s right to be safe; available services such as (e.g. MHPSS, family tracing, and reunification) – throughout all sector messaging.
  • Inclusion of accurate health information through child protection services.
  • Stigma and social exclusion that may result from the virus are addressed through awareness-raising messaging across sectors.
  • Sectors collaborate to include child protection concerns in assessments and monitoring tools.

Multi-sectoral Interventions

An Example of a Priority Action by Sector

Protection: Advocate with authorities that restrictions on movement and across borders must not contribute to family separation and negative impacts on children.

Food Security and Livelihoods: Collaborate to adapt the targeting criteria and referrals for food, cash and livelihoods support to prioritize children experiencing or at high risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.

Education: Advocate with governments and schools to ensure the continuation of age-appropriate and disability-inclusive learning to support children’s development and well-being. Consider remote teaching via radio, TV or internet (context-dependent); support for parents; and sharing of resources/resource packs.

Health: Include measures to protect children during a COVID-19 outbreak in contingency plans.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support: Collaborate on MHPSS care and messaging for children and caregivers affected by COVID-19.

Nutrition: Develop creative alternatives to school- or community-based feeding programmes.

WASH: Collaborate to provide safe, child-friendly hygiene-promotion activities before and during outbreaks, including the development of posters, videos and infographics targeting children, parents/caregivers and teachers.

Shelter and Settlement: Adapt the design of shelters to meet the needs of family members who must self-isolate and prevent family separation.

Camp Management: Support camp management actors in adapting services and participation mechanisms to ensure they remain safe, child-friendly, accessible and inclusive for all children, including girls and children with disabilities.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of multi-sectoral engagement in the fight against COVID-19, check out the full online course, from The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, below.

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Protecting Children during Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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