Children in more than 100 countries face exploitation in Covid times

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Violence against children could not be disrupted in more than 100 countries at the time of Coronavirus pandemic that has left children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) survey has found.

The UNICEF said that 104 countries of the 136 countries, which responded to the Socio-economic Impact Survey of COVID-19 Response, reported a disruption in services related to violence against children.

DISRUPTION IN SERVCIE

It said that about two thirds of the countries reported of having disruption in at least one service. South Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are reported to have the highest proportion of countries reporting disruptions in availability of services.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that they were only beginning to fully understand the damage caused to children due to increased exposure to violence during the pandemic. “Ongoing school closures and movement restrictions have left some children stuck at home with increasingly stressed abusers. The subsequent impact on protection services and social workers means children have nowhere to turn for help,” she said.

With countries taking preventive and control measures against COVID-19, THE UNICEF said that several of the violence prevention and response services were suspended or interrupted as a result. Case management, home visits by child welfare and social workers to children and women at risk of abuse, referral services, violence prevention programmes, national helpline services and children’s access to child welfare authorities were disrupted in many countries.

The UNICEF said that children’s exposure to violence was widespread even before the start of the pandemic. About half of the children across the world experienced corporal punishment at home. About three in four children aged two to four years were subjected to forms of violent discipline and one in three adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 were victims of their intimate partner at some point in their lives.

The UNICEF pointed out that the gravity of the violence against children increased at the time of Covid-19 pandemic with the children lacking informal support networks like friends, childcare workers, teachers and extended family and community members.

CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM  

Noting that several children relied on child protection systems to keep them safe, Fore said “child protection systems are already struggling to prevent and respond to violence against children, and now a global pandemic has both made the problem worse and tied the hands of those meant to protect those at risk.” added Fore.

“In times of crisis, governments must have immediate and long-term measures that protect children from violence, including designating and investing in social service workers as essential, strengthening child helplines and making positive parenting resources available,” she said.

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