The coronavirus pandemic has been a frightening and uncertain time for so many of us. It has been truly overwhelming to see the resilience and dedication of NHS staff and key workers. My heart and mind also immediately went to the impact this would have on children living in conflict.
As an ambassador for the children’s charity War Child, I’ve seen first-hand what life is like for families struggling with the consequences of war. War zones are already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child, but coronavirus is making life even harder.
For families living in refugee camps or other war affected communities, the impact of the virus has been catastrophic. Cramped conditions make social-distancing nearly impossible– and poor sanitation means there is very limited ability to do frequent hand-washing. As the restrictions are easing across parts of Europe, the numbers of cases are rising steadily among many of the poorer parts of the world. But because so many of these countries have such limited ability to test, the numbers being reported are way lower than the reality on the ground.
The health systems in these countries will be very quickly overwhelmed if the virus takes hold. Years of poverty and war mean that ill-equipped hospitals are paired with a terrifying lack of doctors and nurses. The Central African Republic, for example, only has four ventilators for the entire population of nearly five million people.
For families affected by war, the financial impact is as much a problem as the virus itself – very much like it has been in the UK too. The families War Child supports are extremely worried. There’s not enough government money to support the huge numbers of people who can’t make a living. Families can’t afford to buy food and the knock-on effects for children mean they fall out of education and are at much greater risk of child labour, abuse and other forms of exploitation. That’s why the work that War Child is doing is especially important right now. As lockdowns stop families who live day to day being able to work, with no financial safety net to fall back on, War Child is helping them get basic supplies like food, water, sanitation and medicine. It’s also providing education packs for children who can’t go to school as well as giving counselling to those who’ve experienced the trauma of war and now the additional strain of coronavirus.
War Child has worked with the creative industries for nearly 30 years to raise funds to help children affected by war. But as events aren’t possible this year, the charity has asked its supporters from across the arts to help. People have come together to donate experiences or rewards – so that we can ‘crowdfund’ to help children affected by war. It’s a fantastic way for the creative industries to do something positive and proactive during these difficult days. Until 1 September the public can purchase an amazing variety of unique products and experiences – where they can either enter prize draws, bid in auctions or ‘buy now’. I’ve been inspired to donate myself – for example, you can join me in a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a stunt session on the Mission Impossible set with Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise's stunt team. There is also a range of beautiful clothing, prints and canvas shoppers with specially designed messages of hope and love in these corona times.
There’s something for everyone from the chance to win access to the UK premiere for the new Cruella film, walk the red carpet and meet Emma Stone in person. You can also have breakfast with War Child UK Ambassador Carey Mulligan and then have a private screening of her new film A Promising Young Woman with your friends. In terms of music, you can meet Duran Duran, the 1975 and the wonderful Ed Sheeran in person at their next gigs. If you’re a fan of The Crown, there’s an exclusive chance to bid for a royal tea with both Princess Margarets as the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter kindly agreed to join forces with me for this one-off experience, or for those who want a more active adventure, check back in after 11 August where there’ll be an exclusive experience related to the Mission Impossible films . We also have beautiful T-shirts designed exclusively for War Child by the talented Cressida Jamieson and by Bella Freud.
Every penny will go towards War Child’s brilliant work.
War Child’s Emergency Coronavirus Crowdfunder runs until 1 September. To find out more please visit warchildcrowdfunder.co.uk.
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