How will COVID-19 affect girls and young women?

Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 pandemic

What is Coronavirus / COVID-19?

Coronavirus is an infectious disease caused by the COVID-19 virus.

The virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

(Source: WHO).

How can we protect ourselves against the virus?


The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads

Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face. Practice social distancing where possible and self-isolate if you start to show symptoms such as: fever, tiredness, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, aches and pains.

(Source: WHO)

How are children affected by coronavirus?

Disease outbreaks affect girls and boys, women and men differently. While children’s health appears less impacted by COVID-19 than older adults, children’s education will be interrupted, protective structures disrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by health and economic burdens.

Children are also at risk of psychological distress at times of crisis as well as increased risk of violence, abuse exploitation and neglect.


  • Impact on education

Groups that are already disadvantaged, such as adolescent girls, experience the greatest risks and impacts when their education is interrupted. Governments must take steps to mitigate the effects of school closures on girls, boys and their families.

Education authorities and schools must ensure education continues in the event of school closures. Schools that remain open should be supported to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, with attention paid to protecting students and staff from discrimination and stigma associated with infection.


  • Risk to child protection

Disease outbreaks and the measures taken to control them can increase children’s risk of violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect. Essential ongoing support and case management for vulnerable and at-risk children may be blocked by social distancing measures.

National and local responses must assess and address those risks, including in quarantine situations and in communities facing restrictions on movement.

How are girls and women affected by coronavirus?

Disease outbreaks increase girls’ and young women’s duties caring for elderly and ill family members, as well as for siblings who are out of school.

Girls, especially those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak.

Increased risk of gender-based violence

Economic stress on families due to the outbreak can put children, and in particular girls, at greater risk of exploitation, child labour and gender-based violence. Quarantine measures should be accompanied by support for affected households.

Health services

Evidence from past epidemics indicates resources are often diverted from routine health services. This further reduces the already limited access of many girls and young women to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as maternal, new-born and child health services.

Health authorities should ensure access to these services during the response to the outbreak, including for adolescent girls.

Risk of exploitation

Economic challenges during the outbreak pose a serious threat to young women’s work and business activity and expose them to increased risk of exploitation or abuse.

Girls and young women facing severe economic shocks are more likely to take on high-risk work for their economic survival. Responses to the outbreak must protect and support young women’s economic empowerment.

How is Plan International responding to the crisis?

Photo: Plan International is conducting awareness raising training sessions in rural communities to alert people to the dangers of the COVID-19 and provide them with the information they need to protect themselves and prevent an outbreak of the virus in their communities.


We are closely monitoring the impact on our operations and place utmost importance on the safety and well-being of our staff and communities.

Women and girls suffer most during emergencies, so we’ll strive to ensure their needs are addressed and not left behind.

Our response is tailored towards the most vulnerable communities in which we already work.

We are focusing on the following areas:

Health and hygiene

We will install additional handwashing facilities, distribute hygiene kits and share age-appropriate, gender-aware health and hygiene information.

In addition, we will push to maintain essential services for adolescent girls and young women, such as sexual and reproductive health services, and maternal, newborn and child health services.

We will provide support to local health authorities and train community health workers. We will work with local government and health services to ensure that people living with HIV have continued access to treatment.



We will train teachers and key workers on the prevention/control of COVID-19 and empower parents, caregivers and the wider community to support the learning, development and wellbeing of children when schools close.

We will work closely with the water, sanitation and hygiene sector to ensure hygiene in schools. This will include obtaining and distributing hygiene and wash kits, and ensuring children have access to handwashing facilities and clean toilets.

We will continue essential activities like school-feeding programmes which support vulnerable groups including children with disabilities.


Child protection

We will focus on raising awareness of the crisis via different channels (TV, internet, radio, posters etc.) and provide targeted support to vulnerable households.

We will ensure there is a clear system of referral for children in need of special support, including psychosocial counselling. We will work to identify and support vulnerable children, e.g. children without family, children with health problems and children living or working on the streets.

Women and girls are among those who suffer most during emergencies. We’ll strive to ensure their needs are addressed.


Community engagement

We will work with communities and traditional and religious leaders to adapt traditional practices to avoid transmission of COVID-19 and train those well placed to care for vulnerable children in case of an outbreak.


Refugees and internally displaced people

We are particularly concerned for people living in refugee and displacement camps and settlements who are vulnerable to COVID-19 for a number of reasons including overcrowding, lack of nutrition and water, poor health facilities and health status. We will identify vulnerable children and ensure there are safe care arrangements for them as well as access to psychosocial support.

We will increase access to water and soap in child friendly spaces and provide hygiene and menstrual health kits, and ensure families have access to basic needs such as food, water and hygiene equipment if they need to isolate.

What can I do to help those affected by Coronavirus?

The worst health crisis of a generation is challenging the world. We are extremely concerned how COVID-19 will affect the most vulnerable populations.

If and when coronavirus hits lower income countries the effects could be devastating. Reduced infrastructure and healthcare provisions will make the virus harder to control. This will in turn make the pandemic harder to control.

We must do all we can to support these countries through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will work to ensure the world’s most vulnerable children and young people get the support they need during this crisis but to do this we need your help.