The Asia-Pacific region suffers from frequent and devastating disasters and humanitarian refugee crises due to ongoing conflict and civil unrest. These issues have historically disproportionately affected girls and women, and that same disparity now extends to the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Plan International and other organisations have focused on providing equal rights and treatment to girls and women and have made significant progress in helping them develop leadership capabilities to improve and progress in their own lives. However, the health and socio-economic challenges accompanying COVID-19 threaten to unravel these long-standing efforts.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses significant challenges for children and young women in the Asia-Pacific region. The resulting lockdowns, health effects and changing needs of the communities are increasing the risk of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), gender- based violence (GBV), sexual violence, sex trafficking, early pregnancy, withdrawal from education and online abuse – particularly for girls. The pandemic’s indirect socio-economic effects are likely to be extensive and long-term, potentially reversing decades of efforts dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable youth.
Plan International’s response to COVID-19 in the 15 target countries within the Asia-Pacific region involves collaborating with governments and other partners to prioritise the needs of vulnerable groups, including girls, boys, young women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The organisation is driving changes in practice and policy at the local, national and global levels using the knowledge and reach that come from more than 80 years of experience in over 75 countries. The response will focus on incorporating the voices of all groups experiencing the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 in the decision-making process and ensuring that their perspectives influence aid programmes in order to meet their needs more effectively.
The COVID-19: Six Months on Report outlines how Plan International and partner organisations have addressed the above issues during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights successful initiatives during this time and quantifies their impacts, underscoring current gaps and posing suggestions for next steps and future interventions.