Teen activist Greta Thunberg is urging the world to listen to scientists as she describes the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic is having around the world.
“During any crisis it is always the most vulnerable people who are hit the hardest, and that is children,” she said.
“Especially in the global south, people in the poorest parts of the world, especially people living in conflict zones and refugee camps,” she added.
Appearing on a CNN Coronavirus Town Hall, hosted by Anderson Cooper and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Thunberg addressed misinformation around the disease, including how it was originally believed that Covid-19 affected only elderly people.
“Yes, this does affect elderly people a lot, but we also have to remember that this is also a children’s rights crisis,” she warned, “because children are the most vulnerable in societies.”
“Children do get the virus and they also spread it.”
A role model for many young people around the world, 17-year-old Thunberg self-isolated from her family earlier this year after believing she had contracted the virus – although she has never been tested.
She explained that in her home country of Sweden, “you don’t get tested unless you are in need of medical help.”
Thunberg self-isolated anyway because, she said, it was “the right thing to do.”
Despite having had what she describes as mild symptoms, she posted about her experience on social media to raise awareness about the virus and the appropriate action to take.
“Many people don’t even notice that they have symptoms and then they might spread the virus without even knowing it,” she said.
“So we have to be extra careful, because our actions can be the difference between life and death for many others.”
Thunberg is best known for her environmental activism, leading climate strikes around the world – strikes that have now gone online.
On Global Earth Day last month, April 22, she was awarded a $100,000 prize for her climate activism by Human Act, a Danish worldwide development organization. She subsequently donated that money to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launching a campaign specifically aimed at safeguarding children’s rights and welfare during the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will be used by UNICEF’s coronavirus emergency programs to provide supplies like soap, masks, hygiene kits and gloves, she explained.
“We’re talking about washing our hands and staying home but for many people in the world, they do not have access to clean water or sanitation, to soap,” she said.
“They may not even have a house to stay home in.”
“That’s why we need to help the people who are most vulnerable to this crisis in ways that we might not think about in the global north,” she added.
Greta Thunberg: The teenage old soul of the climate crisis
Despite sounding the alarm over the virus, Thunberg said she does see a silver lining to all this.
“People are starting to realize that we are actually depending on science and that we need to listen to scientists and experts.
“And I really hope that stays,” she said, adding that she hopes it will apply to other crises “such as the climate crisis and the environmental crisis.”
Thunberg’s appearance on CNN’s Coronavirus Town Hall drew criticism from some, who accused her of not being an expert on the virus. However, the teen herself clarified on Twitter that she was never appearing as an expert nor is she one. Rather, she is an activist with a large following of young people and is trying to shine a light on the impact this virus will have on future generations.