Media releases and reports

Children are the unseen victims of COVID-19

UNICEF appeals for NZD $2.6 billion to meet the growing needs of children impacted by COVID-19.

UNICEF is appealing for NZD $2.6 billion to support its humanitarian response for children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, up from NZD $1 billion requested in a similar appeal late March. This increase reflects the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the disease and families’ rising needs globally. As the outbreak enters its fifth month, the costs for supplies, shipment and duty of care are increasing dramatically.

“While we celebrate the commitment of New Zealanders to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 in Aotearoa, the pandemic continues to be a global health crisis and a child rights crisis,” said UNICEF NZ Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn.

“In April 2020, UNICEF NZ raised over $700,000 to support Kiwi families with groceries and hygiene supplies. Now we need to step up our efforts to support vulnerable communities around the world. These funds will ensure we can respond to the crisis and protect children from the knock-on effects of COVID-19.”

Access to essential services like health care and routine immunisation has already been compromised for hundreds of millions of children, which could lead to further outbreaks of potentially deadly childhood diseases like measles and a significant increase in child mortality. Meanwhile, the mental health and psychosocial impact of restricted movement, school closures and subsequent isolation are likely to intensify already high levels of stress, especially for vulnerable children. According to a UNICEF analysis, some 77 per cent of children under the age of 18 worldwide, or 1.8 billion, are living in one of the 132 countries with some form of movement restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

Risk factors for violence, abuse and neglect are on the rise for children living under restricted movement and socio-economic decline. Girls and women are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. In many cases, refugee, migrant and internally displaced children, as well as returnees, are experiencing reduced access to services and protection and increasing exposure to xenophobia and discrimination.

“New Zealand is preparing to move into coronavirus level 2 this week, but the pandemic continues to disrupt countries with weaker systems and health resources. It will take a global effort to fight COVID-19 and UNICEF’s life-saving work has never been more critical,” said Maidaborn.

UNICEF is focusing its response to the pandemic on countries with existing humanitarian crises – working both to prevent transmission and mitigate the collateral impacts on children, women and vulnerable populations, especially around access to health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection. UNICEF is working around the clock to provide governments, children and families the critical support needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. However additional funding is urgently needed to build upon the life-saving results already achieved, which include:   

  • Over 1.67 billion people reached with COVID-19 prevention messaging around hand washing and cough and sneeze hygiene;

  • Over 12 million people reached with critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies;

  • UNICEF has shipped more than 6.6 million gloves, 1.3 million surgical masks, 428,000 N95 respirators, 291,000 gowns, 13,000 goggles, 63,500 face shields, 200 oxygen concentrators and 34,500 diagnostic tests for COVID-19, in support of 52 countries as they respond to the pandemic;

  • Nearly 80 million children reached with distance or home-based learning;

  • Over 10.9 million children and women receiving essential healthcare services in UNICEF supported facilities; and

  • Over 830,000 children, parents and caregivers provided with community-based mental health and psychosocial support.




UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit