UNICEF: How to Protect Our Kids & Family to Survive the Covid-19 Pandemic?

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Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Check if they’re experiencing or spreading stigma. You know that the outbreak has brought with it numerous reports of discrimination around the world. So it’s important to check that your children are neither experiencing nor contributing to the bullying. Explain to them that coronavirus has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where there are a from or what language they speak. And if they have been bullied, they should feel comfortable telling an adult whom they trust. Anton Diaz: All right. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Welcome to the awesome families out there. My name is Anton Diaz, founder of Our Awesome Planet. Welcome to our awesome chat with UNICEF. You know, one of the legit ways to continue to support COVID-affected families and communities here in Manila is by supporting legitimate organizations like UNICEF. So this afternoon we’re talking to Dr. Yella Castillo of UNICEF to talk about the situation and how they’re helping the communities here in Manila. Hi, good afternoon, Dr. Yella. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Hi Anton. Good afternoon.  

Covid-19 Facts by UNICEF

Anton Diaz: And so first things first, we’re now on the 21st day of the lockdown in Metro Manila. Can you give us an overview of the COVID situation here in your point of view, or UNICEF’s point of view? Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: All right. Well, according to the most recent case bulleting from DOH, and they issue this every day, as of yesterday at 4:00 PM there are now 3018 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. There have been 136 deaths due to COVID and 52 patients have recovered. The hotspot really remains to be in the 60 to 69 age group followed by the 50 to 59 year old age group. So it affects really older adults. They’re slightly more males than females, 61%. The other hotspot in terms of places will be National Capitol Region or NCR. 55% of all confirmed cases are here in Metro Manila. Then the other big hotspot is Davao. And the NCR accounts for 66% of all deaths. Of the 17 regions in the Philippines, 16 out of 17 have reported COVID-19 cases already. The only region that has not reported a case is Caraga or region 13. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Among those who died from COVID-19, we know that there are certain populations that are most at risk. So among the 136 Filipinos who died, the most affected age group is 72 to 79 years old. The 73% are males. So far, the youngest is 34 years old and the oldest is 89 years old. And more than three fourths of these persons who died have what we call co-morbidities, meron din silang sakit that include diabetes, chronic kidney disease or hypertension, heart disease, bronchial asthma or cancer. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: So today we’re on day 21 of the enhanced community quarantine to help flatten the curve. And the Philippine government has been implementing actions on all fronts to address this global pandemic that’s affecting our country. So first, DOH is further strengthening its capacity in COVID testing. In the beginning we only had one testing center. That’s our RITM in Alibang. But now they opened five other subnational testing centers and many more. And it’s all on the DOH website, but are more than 29. Not to mention they’re private hospitals that do COVID testing. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: DOH is strengthening hospital preparedness, rapid response, risk communication and very important information dissemination with its full support from UNICEF Philippines. Also, the government is looking at alternative locations for large scale quarantine facilities so that we do not overwhelm the hospitals. And LGUs are setting up their own quarantine facilities. So for example, the Interagency Task Force is reportedly planning three makeshift quarantines sites, one in Rizal Memorial Stadium, one in World Trade Center and one in PICC. We hear also of other regions setting up their own temporary quarantine sites.  

UNICEF Philippines’ effort to fight Covid-19

Donate to UNICEF Efforts here: https://donate.unicef.ph/ Anton Diaz: What are the efforts of UNICEF particularly? Because when people hear of UNICEF, sometimes it’s about kids only. What are the specific efforts you guys are doing in UNIEF? Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: UNICEF supports both children and their families. So first we have been fully supporting the government ever since the first few cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country. We provided tents to the Department of Health so that they can triage COVID-19 cases requiring hospital care, because it’s really important to keep the physical distancing. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: We also provide logistic support to DOH, as in helping DOH deliver equipment and supplies to various hospitals across the country, to ensure that the front liners are adequately protected and adequately equipped as they bravely carry out their duties to attend to COVID-19 patients. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: We are in the process of procuring additional personal protective equipment, sanitation, cleaning and disinfecting kit for health facilities and other community-based quarantine facilities. If necessary, we are ready to provide additional temporary wash facilities in water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for these quarantine centers and other health facilities in the community that are used to treat or triage or isolate COVID patients. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: We provide technical support to the DOH together with the World Health Organization in coming up with clear guidelines for hospitals, health centers, quarantine units, and even for the household in communities. We will help DOH roll out training modules for local healthcare workers and other local government officials through online platforms. We’re working with DOH to take appropriate measures so that the delivery of essential public health services continues, including access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, mental health and psychosocial support services for people living with HIV, and for adolescent health. And also for continued nutrition, especially for the vulnerable populations such as those that were displaced by the earthquakes in Mindanao. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: We work with schools so that they can plan, continue with for learning. We’re working with DepEd on distance and alternative learning options. And we urge communities, caregivers and parents to stay informed about COVID-19 through trusted sources. Now, these are DOH, local government units, World Health Organization and UNICEF, information that will help communities recognize symptoms, coordinate with the proper authorities, support safety efforts, and to help children cope with the stress caused by the current situation.  

What can we do to Stay Healthy?

Anton Diaz: What can the public do to stay healthy? Siyempre, like for example for us, we’re staying with our parents here also. And then you hear a lot of stories, recently, hindi na lumalabas yung mga tao pero nagkaka-Covid pa rin inside the house and they don’t know what happened. That’s one. And second for kids also, siyempre the kids, how can we make sure na naintindihan nila yung situation, and hindi lang sila laro ng laro? Any advice for those things also? Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: So yeah. Let’s start off with the general public. When you raised the concern, kahit na hindi na lumalabas ng bahay nagkakaroon pa rin, kasi we are already in the stage of sustained community transmission of the virus now. So the best way to prevent it is to avoid being exposed to the virus. You greatly lessen your chance of being exposed if you stay at home. So therefore there’s reason for this enhanced community quarantine in staying at home. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: And then when you think about a virus that’s spread by droplet,  by coughing or sneezing of someone who has the virus, but then the problem with this SARS 2 Coronavirus is that there is a stage now without symptoms, you’re asymptomatic. So you don’t know who has it or who doesn’t. So physical distancing becomes important because the range of the typical bahing or the coughing is about one meter. So if you stay away that distance, then there’s a chance you won’t get it. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Second, even if let’s say the droplets hit you, or let’s say you can’t avoid coughing or sneezing, the responsible thing to do is what we call respiratory hygiene or cough etiquette. So when you cough, you need to do like this so that it doesn’t project outwards. And then you can cover your cough or your mouth and your nose with a tissue, and then dispose of it properly afterwards. And then after you dispose the tissue, then you need to wash your hands with soap and water. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Let’s say hindi mo napigilan, hindi ka naka-ganon, hindi mo na-ano sa tissue,  and the droplet lands on a surface that is touched by your child or by yourself. And we know that the virus can survive for some time on surfaces. So that’s why it’s important that if you touch a surface that potentially has the virus that’s unclean, then you wash your hands with soap and water, because that will kill the virus. It’s also important to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the house. So the frequently touched surfaces, high touch surfaces that we identify are door knobs, light switches, cellphone, keyboards, tabletops, countertops, handles of bags and containers, et cetera. So you just need to clean and disinfect this once a day. Anton Diaz: But when you go out, siyempre some people are paranoid na rin. Is it advisable to have gloves or goggles aside from the mask? Or would the mask be sufficient? Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: The mask is sufficient because it’s meant not just to protect yourself, it’s actually meant to protect others so that you don’t spread your droplets. So if yung kasalubong mo is wearing a mask, that person is actually protecting you. You know, the home-made cloth masks or the regular masks, not the medical masks. So they’re actually protecting you. Kung pareho kayong naka-mask, you’re protecting each other. The reason that if you see on social media, many people advocating for masks for the public, because of this global shortage of medical or surgical masks, medical-grade masks, because three layers siya and it is proven to be impenetrable by the virus. And problema yung mga healthcare workers natin because of the hoarding or the inappropriate use of masks, nababawasan yung available for the healthcare workers. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: So that’s the reason that, aside from staying at home and all the physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and respiratory hygiene and stuff, it’s important that we reserve the masks that are of medical grade use for our frontline workers. Because if you think about it, if our medical frontline workers are getting sick themselves or dying, then there will be fewer people to take care of the seriously ill from COVID. And in any country, that affects the death rates from COVID. It’s not just how quickly the virus is spreading, but it’s also how well our health system can respond to the very ill proportion of COVID-19 patients. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Ang consuelo naman duon, Anton is that people with COVID-19 infection, 80% of them will get well, 15% will only have moderate illness. You can be at home if you can be self-isolated, or you’ll stay in a hospital pero uuwi ka rin kaagad,  just with supportive therapy, and only 5% really require very specialized critical care, the ones that get admitted to an intensive care unit and will need to be on a breathing machine or a ventilator.  

How to handle our kids during this pandemic?

Anton Diaz: Going back to the kids, family and kids, any advice on the kids?

Tip#1: Openly talk to the kids about Covid-19

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: For kids, it’s really expected that with all the change in the routine, that kids will also be stressed or at least question what’s going on. So it’s important to talk to them about it. First you explain the context and the situation to them using child-friendly information. You ask open questions and you listen. You can start by inviting your child to talk about the issue, find out how much they already know, and you can follow their lead. Make sure you’re in a safe environment and you allow your child to talk freely. You can do this by drawing and going through stories or other activities that may help them to open up about the situation. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: And most importantly, don’t minimize or avoid their concerns. Make sure you acknowledge their feelings about the situation and assure them that it’s okay, it’s natural to feel scared about these things. And demonstrate that you’re listening to them by giving them your full attention, not multitasking them with your phone or something, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you and for example, their teachers whenever they like.  

Tip#2: Explain the Truth in a Child-Friendly Way

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Second, be honest and explain the truth in a child-friendly way. There are many resources that you can go to, online books that can share some things with you about the pandemic. Use age-appropriate language and be sensitive to their levels of anxiety while you’re talking to them. The websites of UNICEF and the World Health Organization are great sources of information. And be sure also to explain to them that some information online isn’t accurate and that it’s best to trust the experts. Download dOnline Book: My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19

Tip #3: Show How to Protect Themselves and their Friends

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Number three, you can show them how to protect themselves and their friends, so that they don’t feel helpless about the situation. And one of the best ways to keep children safe from coronavirus and other diseases is simply regular hand washing. Again, there are many hand-washing videos that you can find online. You can also show children how to do the cough etiquette or the respiratory hygiene, how to cover a cough and sneeze with their elbow, and not to get too close to people who have those symptoms. And then ask them to tell you if they start to feel something like a fever or a cough or difficulty breathing. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: You offer reassurance. When we’re seeing lots of troubling images on TV or online, it can sometimes feel heavy, like the crisis is all around us close, and children may not be able to distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality, and they feel like they’re in imminent danger. So you can help your children cope with the stress by making opportunities for them to play and relax when possible. Try to keep regular routines and schedules, and before they go to sleep, help create new routines in a new environment such as this.  

Tip #4: Keep them Safe during an Outbreak

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: If you’re experiencing an outbreak in your area, in your specific barangay for example, you can remind your children that they are not likely to catch the disease, because again, it affects mostly adults. And that most people who do have coronavirus don’t get seriously sick, and that lots of adults are working to help keep your family safe. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: If your child doesn’t feel well, let them stay at home, give them TLC, and reassure them that you know that this is hard or maybe sometimes scary or boring to follow the rules to just stay at home, but following the rules will keep everybody safe and will help them get well.  

Tip #5: Check if they’re Experiencing or Spreading Stigma

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Number five, check if they’re experiencing or spreading stigma. You know that the outbreak has brought with it numerous reports of discrimination around the world. So it’s important to check that your children are neither experiencing nor contributing to the bullying. Explain to them that coronavirus has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where they are from, or what language they speak. And if they have been bullied, they should feel comfortable telling an adult whom they trust.  

Tip #6: Look for the Helping People

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Number six, look for the helping people. It’s important for children to know that people are helping each other with acts of kindness and generosity. Go ahead and share stories of health workers, scientists, and young people, among others, who are working to stop the outbreak and keep the community safe. It can be a big comfort to know that compassionate people are taking action.  

Tip #7: Take Care of Yourself, Parents

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Number seven, take care of yourself too as a parent. You’ll be able to help your kids better if you’re coping too. Children will pick up on your own response to the news so it helps them to know that you are calm and in control. If you as a parent, you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends, and other trusted people in the community. Make some time to do things, to also help you relax and recuperate.  

Tip #8: Close your Conversations about Covid with Care

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: And then lastly, if you’re talking to children about COVID, close your conversations with care. It’s important to know that we’re not leaving children in a state of distress. As your conversation wraps up, try to gauge their level of anxiety by watching their body language and watching their tone of voice and watching how they breathe. Remind your children that they can have difficult conversations with you, that you’re a safe person to speak with. Remind them that you care, that you’re listening, and that you are available whenever they feel worried. Anton Diaz: Thank you. Thank you. So ok lang yon just let them play outdoor, but making sure now there’s a routine. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Yeah, and have a routine to stick with, because of this, everybody’s at home. You also tend to lose track of time, so it’s important to stick to their routines. For more parenting tips, please visit: https://www.covid19parenting.com

How can the Public Support COVID-Affected Communities through UNICEF?

Anton Diaz: All right. Thank you Dr. Mariella. How can the public support COVID affected communities through UNICEF? Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Well you donate online by donate.unicef.ph. You can do online bank transfers through Metro Bank, BDO and BPI. You can donate using GCash. You can donate using PayMaya, or you can donate via Lazada, lazada.com.ph/shop/unicef.  

Final Thoughts

Anton Diaz: Good. Any final thoughts? We might be coming out of this, maybe a different version after seven days. Any thoughts on how to return to normal or the new normal as they say?

Insight #1: Stay Healthy

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: I think that this whole community quarantine has taught us many things. The first is that it’s very important to stay healthy, and very simple things to keep us healthy physically and mentally. And it taught us the importance of washing our hands. It’s really the most effective way, it’s the most available way, and it’s the cheapest way to keep ourselves safe, whether from COVID-19 or from any other viruses or infections out there.

Insight #2: Simplify

Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Second, I think this period of the quarantine has taught us to simplify, and simplify by making us realize what’s important for us and what makes us happy and what are the things we value. For me, one of my realization is that I have more than enough from simplifying. And so it’s time to share and give of what we can materially, but also giving kindness to others. So I really hope we emerge from this pandemic safe, healthy, and kinder to everybody. Anton Diaz: Thank you so much, Dr. Mariella. Thank you to UNICEF. And we’ll support that effort. And hope you guys could also support UNICEF. We still need a lot of help. This is still not over and it will continue to affect a lot of communities. Thank you so much. Dr. Mariella S. Castillo: Thank you Anton.

One thought on “UNICEF: How to Protect Our Kids & Family to Survive the Covid-19 Pandemic?

  1. Thanks for sharing this very insightful discussion! It’s a great help for explaining the situation to kids like mine, especially that they are naturally curious and will be wondering why everyone stays at home every day unlike before.

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