News release of the Inter-Agency
Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in
A new book published today aims to help children stay hopeful and positive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is a sequel to ‘My Hero is You: how kids can fight COVID-19!’, published in April 2020.
Both books have been released by a collaboration of 60 organizations working in the humanitarian sector, including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the MHPSS Collaborative for Children & Families in Adversity.
‘My Hero is You 2021: how kids can hope with COVID-19!’ draws on the daily realities of millions of children since the beginning of the pandemic. For many, the pandemic continues to disrupt their education, recreation, and time with friends, family and teachers.
The story – aimed primarily at children aged 6-11 years – sees the return of Ario, a fantasy creature who travels the world helping children to find hope in the future and joy in simple pleasures. Together with old and new friends, Ario addresses the fears, frustrations and concerns children are facing in the current phase of the pandemic, and explores the various coping mechanisms that they can use when faced with difficult emotions like fear, grief, anger and sadness.
The new story drew from responses to a survey of more than 5000 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world who described the challenges they continue to face in the second year of the pandemic.
Reaching children everywhere
The book is currently available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili. Its predecessor is now available in more than 140 languages, including sign language and Braille, and in more than 50 adaptations, in animated video, read-aloud, theatre, activity books and audio formats. Examples include an adaptation for Native Americans, a colouring book for children in Syria, and an animation developed by a team led by Stanford Medicine in the USA.
Since April 2020, governments, universities, nongovernmental organizations, media outlets and celebrities have joined forces with the United Nations to facilitate a truly global distribution of the first book in the series. Initiatives include the roll-out of audio versions and workshops relating to the book among refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; the broadcasting of an animated version on Mongolian national television; and the inclusion of the book as a free supplement with a national newspaper in Greece.
The new storybook can be used by parents and teachers in conjunction with a guide entitled ‘Actions for Heroes’, released by the same group in February 2021. Already available in more than a dozen languages, the guide advises parents, caregivers and teachers on how to create the right conditions for children to openly share their feelings and worries related to the pandemic and includes activities based on the books in the series.
Note for editors:
The ‘My Hero is You’ series is a project of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, a unique collaboration of United Nations agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations and international agencies providing mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings. Co-chaired by the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the group has released multiple resources since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help governments, partner organizations and individuals manage the mental health consequences of the pandemic.
Mr Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, United Nations:
“Addressing the consequences of the pandemic on the mental health of young people is crucial to help them recover faster from the COVID-19 crisis. This new storybook is one of the tools to help them do so.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-General of the World Health Organization:
“As we collectively weather the COVID-19 crisis and find our own ways to cope, we must strive to safeguard the mental health and well-being of children who continue to grapple with disrupted childhoods. The ‘My Hero is You’ storybooks help us to do just that. I encourage parents, teachers and caregivers everywhere to share the sequel to the immensely popular original to help the children in their care build resilience and hang on to a sense of hope for the future.”
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director:
“Almost two years into the pandemic, millions of children are still seeing their lives and routines disrupted. The ‘My Hero is You’ series is an essential and wonderful tool for parents and teachers to help children understand today’s new world and cope with their changing emotions.”
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
“The pandemic has profoundly impacted the life and well-being of millions of children around the world, including many living in situations of forced displacement as a result of conflict, violence and persecution. In this period of fear, losses and uncertainties for so many children and their caregivers, initiatives such as the ‘My Hero is You’ series can play a crucial role in helping them cope, heal and maintain hope for the future.”
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General:
“COVID-19 has separated millions of children from friends, teachers and schools, with devastating socio-emotional consequences. UNESCO fully supports the My Hero is You initiative, which uses the universal magic of storytelling and reading to open children’s hearts to hope – a top priority in the educational recovery.”