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Coronavirus Outbreak

Stay up to date with the latest facts and figures on coronavirus in the UK, and check out our FAQs around the outbreak. Learn how in both the UK and overseas, we’re doing all we can to fight coronavirus, working with governments and partners.

COVID-19 is a global Pandemic, that endangers children around the world, exposing them to potential risks and disrupting their lives. While current trends indicate that children aren't at higher risk for COVID-19, we know infectious disease outbreaks can seriously impact their wellbeing – both psychological and physical. Children may be separated from their parents during quarantine or admission to hospital, which can make them very vulnerable. They might also have reduced access to essential health services, and school closures will interrupt their learning and leave them isolated. 

Right now we're working with international partners like the World Health Organisation, national governments and donors and other partners to help children and families through the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis.  Across the world, we've adapted how we run our programmes so children can continue to survive, learn, and stay safe, wherever they are.

In 2020, we reached 29.5 million people – including 11.8 million children – in our COVID-19 response. We adapted and scaled up our programmes to support children and families when they needed it the most (scroll down to FAQs section for full statistics).

This page was last updated on 14th July 2021.

Here are some ideas to help children through this crisis

Coronavirus infographic containing the text: coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from a cold to Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

How to speak to your children about Coronavirus

"We want to make sure we can keep our essential programmes going – whether that means strengthening infection prevention control in a child-friendly space, making sure health facilities have the right supplies they need in case a coronavirus patient comes in, or making sure that we think about innovative ways to deliver education in emergencies if people are quarantined."  - Dr Louisa Baxter, Senior Humanitarian Health Lead, Save the Children



Keep up to date with the world health organisation


Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illness as minor as a cold, but in some cases the virus can be fatal. This outbreak is caused by a new strain of coronavirus, now called COVID-19, which had not previously been seen in humans before the outbreak reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.    

 ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease.

As of July 2021, there have been 187m confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4.04m deaths across the world. Over 598m people are fully vaccinated.

We are doing everything we can to keep children, families and our staff protected and healthy.

In the UK, we've been supporting families with our new emergency grants programme
- providing household items and help with bills to families in crisis.

Every family we support will also receive a pack of resources, designed by our early learning specialists, including advice on how to support routines, make time for play and learning, and how to reassure little ones about the virus in age-appropriate language. Some of this advice can be found on our Den.

We've also called on the government to keep in place the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

Read more about our UK response 

Globally, we have over 100 years' experience responding to outbreaks and pandemics.

In May 2020, Save the Children released a global movement-wide COVID-19 response plan. This plan aimed to reach over 69 million people in 87 countries.

In 2020 we reached 29.5m people, of which 17.6m are children.

  • 1.1 million households received clean water and supplies for handwashing
  • 391,5000 children were treated for acute malnutrition
  • 117,000 community health workers were trained to prevent and manage COVID-19
  • 54 national governments were supported to adapt curriculums and deliver distance learning 
  • 3.5 million children were supported with distance learning due to school closures
  • 88,000 children with disabilities were supported to access distance learning
  • 554,000 households received cash grants and vouchers to buy food, medicine, and other essentials
  • Child protection services:
    - 112,000 children received case management support to help protect them from dangers like child labour, gender-based violence, child marriage, and more
    - 247,000 children received mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to address the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and wellbeing
Updated 11th February 2021

We know from our experience responding to large disease outbreaks like the Ebola crisis in West Africa that secondary social and economic impacts can be particularly harmful to children. The coronavirus crisis is impacting children everywhere, and is worsening existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.

It’s the most at-risk children that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, from refugee children who can’t socially distance or wash their hands safely, to children and families who have been forced into extreme poverty, or girls who are in greater danger of gender-based violence. This is why children’s rights and needs are at the centre of our response to the coronavirus crisis.

Save the Children is working in over 80 countries around the world to help prevent, mitigate, and respond to the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis, including:

  • providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to health workers
  • making sure children and families have clean water to wash their hands
  • raising awareness so communities can protect themselves
  • providing cash grants so families can buy food and other essentials
  • helping children learn at home

We’ve adapted and expanded how we deliver our programmes, so children can continue to survive, learn, and stay safe.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to your smell or taste. Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms. 

For further information, please see guidance from the NHS or the WHO.

The WHO first identified the new strain of coronavirus in December 2019, following reports of ‘viral pneumonia’ in Wuhan, China.

The coronavirus spreads between people when an infected person is in close contact with another person. 

The virus can be transmitted from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, talk, sing or breathe heavily. People can be infected when the virus gets into their mouth, nose, or eyes, which is more likely when people are in close contact with an infected person. 

For further information, please see guidance from the NHS or the WHO.

Scientists across the world are working hard to find and develop treatments for the coronavirus. 

All those infected should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, such as cold and flu medicine. Severely ill patients might need oxygen or ventilation.

In the UK, the NHS is offering COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 18 or over. The vaccines currently approved for use are:

  • Moderna
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer/BioNTech

These have met strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness, as set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 

Other vaccines are also being developed and will be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

To protect yourself from getting infected with COVID-19, you should maintain basic hand and respiratory hygiene, wear a mask and avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms such as coughing and sneezing if possible. 

For further information, please see guidance from the NHS or the WHO.

The best way to keep each other safe is by taking simple precautions like: 

  • social distancing
  • wearing a mask
  • keeping rooms well ventilated
  • avoiding crowds and close contacts
  • regularly cleaning your hands
  • coughing into your elbow or tissue
  • stay home if you are feeling unwell

See how we're helping communities stop the spread of coronavirus.

For further information, please see guidance from the NHS or the WHO.

Save the Children is an experienced community health provider, which is the first line of defence against coronavirus for many countries. We’re providing training and protective equipment for health workers so they can detect, prevent, and manage suspected cases of coronavirus.

In May 2020, our Emergency Health Unit sent a team of highly experienced medical professionals to help set-up and run a coronavirus isolation and treatment centre in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The isolation and treatment centre provides 24-hour care for suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients from the Rohingya and host community.

We’re also making sure we can continue to provide routine, life-saving healthcare services, such as child immunisations, prevention and management of childhood disease, sexual and reproductive health services, and infant and young child feeding services.

Visit the NHS website for more information


7 Simple Tips on How to Talk to Kids about the Coronavirus


1. Be calm, honest, and informed.

2. Tailor your approach based on your child—think about whether more information makes them more or less anxious.

3. Share facts simply and calmly—kids take their cue from you.

4. Ask your child what they know, answer their questions and address any misinformation.

5. Validate their feelings, while reassuring them- “I understand this can be scary. The risk is still low, and we’re well prepared."

6. Remind them of what’s in their power—washing hands thoroughly and often, coughing and sneezing into their elbow, getting plenty of sleep, etc.

7. Model good hygiene, and try to make it fun! Think of or create a favorite song to sing while scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds.


Graphic showing when to wash hands, with the text: 'Protect yourself, wash your hands: before feeding or breastfeeding your child; after touching animals or animal waste; before, during and after cooking or handling food; after contact with patient; before eating; after using the toilet

How we're helping children to keep learning in Ethiopia

12-year-old Nassir, from Ethopia, reads a book

Nassir, 12, is a 4th grade student in the Somali region in Ethiopia. He is out of school but thanks to Save the Children's mobile library, he is able to continue his reading and learning at home.

"Schools are closed but the mobile reading camp still comes to our village once a week. The librarian lends us storybooks that we can take home to read. I borrow different storybooks from the reading camp. I find it fun reading stories to my family at home. It also helps me improve my reading skills"


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