COVID-19: Working with communities to keep children safe – List of practical guidance and tools

This list of practical resources and tools supports the guidance developed in April 2020 by the Community-level Child Protection Task Force (Task Force) of the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (Alliance) for child protection actors who are working in or with communities to keep children safe during the COVID-19 context.

In turn, the Task Force’s guidance builds on the Alliance’s technical note: Protection of Children during the COVID-19 pandemic (v.2). The aim of this 21-page updated brief is to support child protection practitioners and policy makers to put children’s safety and wellbeing at the centre of their COVID-19 pandemic response.

There is also an annex to this technical note: Working with communities to keep children safe (v. 1.1) This 12-page annex is designed as a practical brief for community level child protection actors, with lots of helpful links. The annex is further supported by the regularly updated list of practical resources and tools below, which aligns directly with this annex. This is the main global child protection and COVID-19 brief for those working at the community level.


  1. Understanding how communities organise themselves to protect children in times of COVID-19
  2. Working with communities to implement safe and effective ways to protect children in times of COVID-19
  3. Ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of community focal points
  4. Accurate information and online and messaging safety
  5. Key global guidance on COVID-19 and child protection
  6. Key global guidance on community-led child protection

  1. Understanding how communities organise themselves to protect children in times of COVID-19

A guide for risk communication and community engagement from UNICEF and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It aims to help practitioners run focus group discussions with communities to find out perceptions and questions surrounding COVID-19. The guide was last updated in March 2020. NB the guide is not designed specifically for social distancing or lock down contexts so would have to be adapted using safe meeting methods. 9 pages. Link here.

UNICEF, IFRC, WHO, 2020. COVID-19: Key tips and discussion points for community workers, volunteers and community networks. 7-page guidance on how to engage, what questions to ask and what to say. Link here.

How to do a poll on social media/messaging apps: This 1-page guide gives short advice for using WhatsApp Business, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for pools when it is not possible to collect information face-to-face. Link here.

IFRC, UNICEF, WHO. How your community can prevent the spread of COVID-19. 5 pages of useful tips for communities to mobilise together around COVID-19. Link here.

WHO guidance on working with faith-based organisations. Faith-based organisations and leaders can play a major role in saving lives and reducing illness related to COVID-19. They are a primary source of support and comfort for their members.  Often trusted more than governments or health-agencies, faith leaders can share health information to protect their communities that will be more likely to be accepted than from other sources. Link here.

Idea: Create WhatsApp groups to self-organise when community dialogues and other face-to-face actions are not possible. Members should explore smart phone ownership for community focal points or other key people, who can receive messages and information and then forward to their own groups, either through WhatsApp or SMS. In this way, people with non-smart phones can also be part of this information network. This system can work downwards and upwards. Challenges are often access to data and airtime, so consider how key actors could receive support for this. See also: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2020. Tips for using social media: risk communication and community engagement for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Example: In Somaliland, a WhatsApp group called Daryeel, “Caring”, is directly connecting “donors” with affected relatives and their communities. Launched by a few individuals, the initiative weds the centuries-old Somali clan structure, rooted in community support, with the one of the most popular messaging apps in the 21st century so far. So far this has resulted in 600 water trucks sent out, monthly food packages for 864 families across 39 villages, and a total of US$ 255,000 donated by Somali diasporas from around the world. For the creators of Daryeel, WhatsApp made it possible for help to arrive directly, in real time. Now, other sub-clans in Somalia are also using it as a model.

Example: In Uganda, more than 100 active social behaviour change professionals, including agencies and Ministry of Health staff, discussed social behaviour change problem-solving in the context of COVID-19. The group developed an entire COIVD-19 campaign in several local languages on their WhatsApp group. This was possible because people already knew and trusted each other and collaborate freely.


2. Working with communities to implement safe and effective ways to protect children in times of COVID-19

2.1 Overall considerations

BBC Media Action on behalf of Shongjog, the national platform for Communication with Communities in Bangladesh (no date). Community engagement from a distance. A very practical guide designed to support development and humanitarian agencies to think through how risk communication and community engagement activity related to COVID-19 can be carried out without face-to-face interaction with communities. Remote methods include phone, online and loudspeakers. 8 pages. Link here.

UNICEF, IFRC, WHO, 2020. Risk Communication and community engagement action plan guidance: COVID-19 preparedness and response. This tool is designed to support risk communication, community engagement staff and responders working with national health authorities, and other partners to develop, implement and monitor an effective action plan for communicating effectively with the public, engaging with communities, local partners and other stakeholders to help prepare and protect individuals, families and the public’s health during early response to COVID-19. 26 pages. Link here.

There are many resources available on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s , including guidance and tools for working with communities. “Use our guides and tools to support your work with local communities. You can use these tools in any context and change them to suit your project’s needs”. There is a very big collection of resources to support COVID-19 responses.

Working with religious structures: Islamic Relief Worldwide has published comprehensive Guidance on Safe Religious Practices during COVID-19 (2020). Also look at COVID-19: Guidance for Faith Communities & Places of Worship, 2020, by World Vision International. The WHO has published a 6-page guidance note on Practical considerations and recommendations for religious leaders and faith-based communities in the context of COVID-19.

Messages on child protection risks (including GBV) in times of COVID-19 from various contexts can be accessed here on the Child Protection Area of Responsibility Dropbox folder.

NEW! 10 June 2020. Teaching on WhatsApp: Leadership and Storytelling for Grassroots Community Organizers: A “how to” guide for designing and delivering an interactive training course through online messaging (February 2020 / Katlego Mohlabane, Alisa Zomer). This tool was designed by South African organisation Grassroots for use in remote resource poor community contexts and is particularly useful during times of COVID-19. Use this guide to help you develop and implement your own training, learning or support networks. 19 pages.

2.2 Safe, child-friendly and effective awareness raising in light of COVID-19

Child Protection Cluster, 2020. Awareness Raising for Children, Parents and Community Members During Disease Outbreak: Modalities for Delivering. 3-page guidance for different scenarios in Iraq. Link here.

The IFRC published a 14-page child-friendly explanation book about the coronavirus with fun games and quizzes for children and carers to play. Link here.

Video explanations for children. “Meet Fatima from Zvandiri in Zimbabwe. She is here to talk to children and young people about COVID-19 and how to look after themselves and each other. Zvandiri and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care produced this video as we know that young people are worried about COVID-19 and need messages that are clear and positive”. Watch here.

International AIDS Society (no date). The Young HIV Advocate’s Cookbook: Recipes for taking action online. Social media is a powerful tool. In this example, a youth-friendly manual has been developed with youth advocates to support advocacy around HIV globally using social media. Despite the HIV advocacy focus, there is much to be learned from using this book to help young people write posts, blogs and develop websites and post other content, such as photos and videos, around any number of issues and concerns. The book also contains some handy tips on netiquette and cyberbulling. Link here.

The Children’s Radio Foundation has developed an excellent safety sheet, fact sheet and radio production guide for reporting on COVID-19 through radio. Link here.

Petit-Perrot, C. and Daniels, L. (no date) Using Whatsapp for radio – a toolkit by the Children’s Radio Foundation. CRF South Africa. Cape Town. Link here. A 23-page toolkit in English on using WhatsApp’s Radio Integration Platform, which allows radio content to reach people through WhatsApp on their devices. This toolkit is probably most useful for those already running radio stations who are seeking to take advantage of recent communications technologies and platforms to reach more people – easily and cheaply and enable communities who would not normally be able to access radio broadcasting equipment the possibility of setting up their own radio station.

Richman, J. (no date) The teen reporter handbook – how to make your own radio diary. Radio Diaries Inc.: A 22-page handbook on how teenagers can develop interesting content for radio. The guide was developed in the USA for work with marginalised American and immigrant teenagers. A very good resource to help teenagers learn how to use a tool on their own or in their family, to document their lives and record what they want. Includes interview techniques and how to be a good reporter. In other words, how to tell a good story on radio. It’s worth noting that the technology and equipment mentioned in this guide are now somewhat outdated, although the content development advice is still very relevant. Link here.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2020. Tips for using social media: risk communication and community engagement for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 7 pages of easy to read tips. Includes some short but useful guidance for creating and using WhatsApp groups. Link here.

ICRC, IFRC and RCS, OCHA, 2017. How to use social media to better engage people affected by crises – a brief guide for those using social media in humanitarian organizations. A very practical 30-page guide for anyone using social media to support their work. No matter how you are planning to use social media you can find some good tips and ideas in this guidance. Link here.

New! 06 July 2020: E-learning course – YouCreate, youth-led, arts based participatory action research for well being and social change. YouCreate is an initiative of Terre des hommes, and was designed and carried out in partnership with the International Institute for Child Rights and Development. YouCreate is a Participatory Action Research project aimed to train youth leaders, with the support of Adult Allies and the ‘Art-kit’ (training manual), to lead their peers in implementing participatory, arts-based research projects and ‘Art Actions’ — arts-based activities designed to address issues of significance to youth in their community.

2.3 Strengthen the family and caregiving environment to promote children’s healthy development and keep them safe

Activities to do at home: Child Protection Area of Responsibility Help Desk is managing a Dropbox folder with collected global, regional, and country-level resources for COVID-19. This resource menu will be a living document which is updated regularly. There is a whole section on games and other activities which children can do at home. Link to the folder here.

New! Added 04 June 2020: Videos and live discussions by Play Africa Connects (Facebook page) to support parents, caregivers and community workers to spport children living in lock down. Includes Parenting in the inner city during lock down and Highlights of “Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being” on Play Africa Connects (on Facebook).

Tips for parents and caregivers during COVID-19 School closures: Supporting children’s wellbeing and learning. This resource has been developed by the MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families and Save the Children. It consists of messages and tips focusing on supporting parents and caregivers in order to improve both wellbeing and learning outcomes for children. They are designed to complement government-developed distance learning materials, where available.

NEW! 06 July 2020: Stress Busters by Save the Children is designed for adults to try with children who are feeling the impact of COVID-19 on their lives, Fun drama-based stress relieving exercises to do at home or in other settings.

World Bank Group, 2015. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Development using interactive audio instruction – a toolkit and guidelines for program design and implementation. Interactive Audio Instruction is a distance learning technology that benefits children who can be hard to reach through conventional programs or in unstable and conflict-affected regions. Explore this resource for ideas and support during COVID-19 contexts. 60 pages. Link here.

WHO and partners, 2020. Parenting in the time of COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Healthy parenting. Six fun, 1-pagers with tips for parents for planning one-on-one time, staying positive, creating a daily routine, avoiding bad behaviour, managing stress, and talking about COVID-19. In many languages. Link here.

COVID-19 Advice for families of children with disabilities: A web page of advice from the UK organisation Contact.

My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19 was developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings.

Relaxation activities to do at home with kids: A Save the Children webpage with lots of simple activities for children to try out.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee reference group for mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings, 2020. Briefing Note on Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak. 20 pages. Link here.

WHO, 2020. Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak – A 1-page brief. Link here.

WHO, 2020. Coping with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak – A 1-page brief. Link here.

IFRC, 2020. Remote Psychological First Aid during the COVID-19 outbreak –  Interim guidance. 12 pages. Link here.

Psychological First Aid Training Manual for Child Practitioners by Save the Children. The Psychological First Aid Training Manual for Child Practitioners, developed in 2013, aims to develop skills and competences of Save the Children staff, partners, and professionals in reducing the initial distress of children who have recently been exposed to a traumatic event. See Sessions 7-8 on communication with children and Session 9 on communication with caregivers.

IFRC, WHO, UNICEF, 2020. Social Stigma associated with COVID-19: A guide to preventing and addressing social stigma. 5 pages. Link here.

NEW! Added 04 June 2020: Basic Psychosocial Skills – A Guide for COVID-19 Responders. This illustrated guide, developed by the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Reference Group (MHPSS RG), aims at building basic psychosocial skills among all essential workers responding to COVID-19 in all sectors (26-pages).

Webinars: An ongoing series of webinars around COVID-19 are being run by The Lancet Psychiatry, Mental Health Innovation Network, and United for Global Mental Health, with guest speakers. Webinars will take place weekly on Tuesdays at 09:00 EST; 14:00 BST; 15:00 CET; 15:00 SAST; 18:30 IST. Each session will last 45 minutes. Of note: May 12: Mental Health & COVID-19 Beyond Face to Face: Digital and Other Ways to Provide Mental Health Service Delivery and Support. Speakers will include Ken Carswell of WHO, experts on the latest in digital mental health service delivery and those working in low resource environments using TV, radio and community networks. Sign up to the seminar series via this link. For more information: [email protected]

Idea: TikTok is an app which allows anyone with a smart phone to make and share their own short videos. For children and young people who have access to TikTok, this is potentially a way for them to record their lives and experiences during COVID-19 and share with others.

Idea: Make a “no editing required” 2-minute “cellphilm” on a phone. Learn more about cellphilms here and watch some examples. Watch entries to the international cellphilm festival or watch a 60-second cellphilm on how to make a 60-second cellphilm.

Example: Virtual Care Groups – Community care groups who previously use to work face-to-face can work virtually through on-line moderated chat groups to organise and plan outreach to virtual ‘care-groups’ represented by clusters of households. Clear information for families is shared through a cascade model on WhatsApp or SMS to support individual families to practice physical distancing, regular handwashing, and care during COVID-19. See “Remote communications and keeping in touch” below for more information.

Example: During the 2014 Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, more than 12,000 people signed up for WhatsApp groups organised by BBC Media Action which allowed them to send comments, questions and programming requests. An evaluation of the project found that people were keen to share their experiences publicly to express themselves. Research by BBC Media Action also found that during the Ebola crisis, people appreciated using messaging apps to hear “people like them” voice their concerns, as well as to access accurate information and ask questions about their situation. Read more here.

2.4 Monitoring and referral of highly vulnerable children and families

Regional Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Working Group on COVID-19 Preparedness and Response in Asia and the Pacific. COVID-19: How to include marginalized and vulnerable people in risk communication and community engagement. An easy to read 12-page guide with considerations for children, persons with disabilities, women and girls, pregnant women, people living with HIV, gender-based violence survivors, refugees and migrants, elderly, people living in existing humanitarian emergencies, people with pre-existing medical conditions, sexual and gender minorities, and ethnic minorities. Link here.

Gender-based violence prevention and response Global Protection Cluster and Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2020. Identifying & Mitigating Gender-based Violence Risks within the COVID-19 Response.This document is intended to support non-GBV specialist humanitarian actors to identify COVID-19, GBV-specific risks in their sectors, and take actions to mitigate those risks. 16 pages. Link here.

A 2-page information sheet on 10 things you should know about COVID-19 and Persons with Disabilities by Save the Children, 2020. Save the Children Disability Inclusion Working Group. Link here.

5 pages of guidance (2020):Toward a Disability-Inclusive COVID19 Response: 10 recommendations from the International Disability Alliance. Link here.

Hong Kong Red Cross, 2020. Psychological coping during disease outbreak: elderly people and people with chronic conditions. 11-page, colourful, reader-friendly information brochure. Link here.

Child Protection Case Management Task Force, Lebanon. March 2020. Guidance for Child Protection case workers to share with caregivers on COVID-19 Child Protection Case Management Guidance for Remote Phone Follow-up. DRAFT version. Provides guidance on: 1) how case workers can provide remote support to children within their existing case load assessed to be at medium or high risk and 2) the specific considerations case workers need to make when conducting interviews/assessments of new cases and how to handle this remotely, primarily through phone calls. 9 pages. Link here.

Changing the Way We Care, 2020. Guidelines for Virtual Monitoring of Children, their Families and Residential Care Facilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Guidance on adapting and/or developing services and programming to continue to best serve children and families throughout the rapidly changing times of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on conducting virtual monitoring of children, families, alternative care placements and residential care facilities. 1 page. Link here.

Changing the Way We Care, 2020. Program guidance: preventive and responsive support to children, families and alternative care providers during COVID-19. A framework to help children’s care programs adapt, reorganise and prioritise prevention and response activities in relation to COVID-19. Link here.

Better Care Network, The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and UNICEF and Inter-agency Task Force, 09 Apr 2020 Technical Note on the Protection of Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Children and Alternative Care. Link here. Better Care Network have a page with many other resources dedicated to children’s alternative care and COVID-19. Link here.

GBV responders’ network: Caring for Child Survivors Training Materials. Modules 6-9 are on communication with children and Module 17 is on psychosocial interventions (which can be adapted for the phone).

Guidance on COVID-19 and Child Protection Case Management is forthcoming from the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action. Sign up to the Exchange mailing list for an alert by mailing: [email protected].


3. Ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of community focal points

WHO guidance on using face masks: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: when and how to use masks. Link here.

IFRC and RCS, 2020. Interim Guidance: Supportive Supervision for volunteers providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support during COVID-19. Link here.

IFRC and RCS. Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Staff, Volunteers and Communities in an Outbreak of Novel Coronavirus. A 14-page Word document with basic background and suggested activities and guidance, including for those in isolation. Link here.

Accurate information and online and messaging safety

The WHO launched a dedicated messaging service on COVID-19 in Arabic, English, French and Spanish with partners WhatsApp and Facebook. The service, however, requires users to be literate and have a smartphone to use different multimedia features.

Arabic Send “مرحبا”  to +41 22 501 70 23 on WhatsAppمرحبا

English Send “hi” to +41 79 893 18 92 on WhatsApp

French Send “salut” to +41 22 501 72 98 on WhatsApp

Italian Send “ciao” to +41 22 501 78 34 on WhatsApp

Spanish Send “hola” to +41 22 501 76 90 on WhatsApp

The WHO also has an interactive chatbot on the social messaging app Viber which you can use to get accurate information about COVID-19 in multiple languages. Follow “WHO coronavirus info” on Viber. Link here. Viber requires a smartphone and data to operate.

The WHO has a page which specifically addresses misinformation about COVID-19. There are useful graphics to download and use. Link here.

Viamo 3-2-1 is a free information phone hotline available in 18 countries so far. Callers using any phone can access pre-recorded COVID-19 audio messages in their local language, free of charge. This allows those with low or no literacy to access the information. COVID-19 messages are currently available on the 3-2-1 service in: Afghanistan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Dem. Rep. Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. While the national number is usually 321, it does vary depending on the country. To listen to the Uganda messages call (USA) +1-650-866-1481. To access country numbers and links: Link here. More information here.

NEW! 10 June 2020. Example: In Haiti, the hotline platform, Viamo, is using traditional Krik Krak story telling to convey messages about coronavirus. Krik Krak is an integral part of the culture of Haiti, a type of call and response storytelling that creates a shared dialogue of cause and effect. The Krik Krak messages available on the hotline are voiced by two major public personalities in Haiti, Kako and Bibi Net Al Kole. These messages address the issues of violence towards marginalized groups, such as women or those with disabilities, and dispel false rumours about the pandemic. By providing these important messages in an educational and entertaining way, and having them voiced by celebrity spokespeople, a larger portion of the population can connect to the messages in a form true to Haitian culture.

Video apps: In partnership with TikTok, WHO has been posting educational videos, live information sessions and a #SafeHands challenge that encourages people to wash their hands “Washing your hands is key, and all it takes is 40 seconds! We’re teaming up with the WHO to make sure that everyone knows how to keep their hands safe. So take 40 seconds, turn on the faucet, and show us what you’re thinking while washing and making sure you have #SafeHands”. Watch some videos here. In another TikTok collaboration, between Amitabh Bachchan and UNICEF, the actor talks about all the preventive measures that can be taken to stop the further spread of the virus including washing hands and wearing masks.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s Hotline in a Box – a set of tools, case studies, and tip cards, developed by that will help you assess, set up, and manage different types of channels to communicate with communities during humanitarian crises. The full 64-page toolkit provides comprehensive guidance and worksheets. Read the case studies for examples of how it’s been used, plus 19 pages of tip cards.

Hotline related materials that are adapted for COVID-19 – Since setting up hotlines is labour and resource intensive, first check whether a well-functioning, accessible child helpline is already established in your context

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (2020). The New Coronavirus Radio Show Guide and Running Order: Risk communication and community engagement for new coronavirus. 10 pages of clear information and tips. Ideally this would be done through an existing radio station and with their producer. An interactive radio programme is a radio chat show, usually around one hour long, comprising an interview with an expert guest(s) and an opportunity for listeners to call or SMS with questions and comments to be answered by the expert. The show can also include pre-recorded interviews with community members (vox pops), music, or spots or jingles on the new coronavirus. Link here.

Example: In South Sudan, Radio Miraya, the station of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has for weeks been dedicating time and resources to provide the population on the pandemic. Based in the capital Juba, Miraya has the largest reach of any broadcaster in South Sudan and due to an effective relay system can be heard throughout most of the country. Radio Miraya reports the latest news about the global epidemic and the impact it may have on South Sudan. It also runs public service announcements including recently written songs by popular artists on the best practices to prevent any eventual outbreak for starting or spreading, such as handwashing and social distancing. Read an article about this here.

The UK’s NetAware initiative provides clear and easy to read information for adults and children on most of the common online networks and apps. A lot of the learning has been sourced from caregivers’ and children’s own experiences of various online platforms.

South Africa’s Media Monitoring Africa have developed online initiatives “HashPlay” and “Web Rangers”, both of which are designed to teach children and young people how to stay safe online.

For those who would like to explore in more detail the opportunities and potential risks associated with using messaging apps in a humanitarian setting consider reading Humanitarian futures for messaging apps: Understanding the opportunities and risks for humanitarian action (2017) published by ICRC with Engine Room and Block Party. Nearly 100 pages long, it provides in depth and comprehensive information and analysis about the use of messaging apps in humanitarian contexts across the world.

COVID-19 and its implications for protecting children online was published in April 2020 by a consortium of children’s agencies. 7 pages.


Key global guidance on COVID-19 and child protection

CP AoR and the Alliance Forum on Child Protection during COVID-19.

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2019. Minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian action (CPMS).

Standard 17 of the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action is: “Community-level approaches: Children live in communities that promote their well-being and prevent abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children before, during and after humanitarian crises”.

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2018. Guidance Note: Protection of children during infectious disease outbreaks.

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2020. Technical Note: Protection of children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2020. Annex to the Inter-Agency Technical Note on the protection of children during the COVID-19 pandemic: Working with communities to keep children safe (forthcoming April 2020).

Key global guidance on community-led child protection

Wessells, M. G., 2018. A guide and toolkit for supporting a community-led approach to child protection. New York. Child Resilience Alliance.

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2020. A reflective field guide: Community-level approaches to child protection in humanitarian action (forthcoming April 2020).

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