Children account for 27% (1.9 billion, 2020) of the world population and also they become the most vulnerable group to the socio-economic impacts and in some cases by mitigation measures of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.  In many cases, school clo­sures and economic distress force children to drop out of school, in some extent to child labor, child soldiers, and into child marriage in high-risk countries.   Therefore, joint interventions of national government, regional child rights mechanism and international communities are crucial in this time.
  • Around 77% of children under the age of 18 worldwide are living in one of 132 countries with COVID-19 movement restrictions.
  • 188 coun­tries have imposed countrywide school closures, affecting more than 1.5 billion children and youth.
  • 60% of all children worldwide live in countries where a full or partial lockdown is in place.
  • An estimated 42-66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis this year, adding to the estimated 386 million chil­dren already in extreme poverty in 2019.
Source: UNICEF
During COVID-19 pandemic, the most common precaution taken by the countries were movement restriction. Tragically, home is not always source of security and safety for some children as violence by caregivers is the most common form of violence experienced by children. Furthermore, due to stress and anxiety caused by the lockdown, many countries are witnessing a sharp increase of domestic violence where children are mostly victims. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), three-quarters of young children (ages 2-4) experience either psychological aggression or physical punishment, or both, by their caregivers at home. In the child protection system, teachers and doctors plays leading role in early identification of child abuse cases yet, school closures left those cases unreported. Even parents are working remotely from home or arranging alternative care for their children, children are facing neglect due to school closures.
· Photo credit to Magic Mongolia
Comparing with other age groups, children have less severe symptoms and lower mortality rates when contract COVID-19.  However, the case of children to tragically lose a parent, family member, or caregiver to COVID-19 are more common which left children vulnerable to exploita­tion and other negative coping measures. Online platforms and communities provide significant opportunities for promoting the rights of the child and used for distance learning frequently. While, its risk of exposure to inap­propriate content and online predators should not be overlooked. Thus, parents and caregivers should be equipped well with solutions to support children’s learning, socialization and play. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch emphasized that during COVID-19 pandemic, refugee, migrant and internally displaced children are suffering from shortened access to protection and services while being increasingly exposed to xenophobia and discrimination. Also, the adverse impact of COVID-19 is not distributed equally in the society. Children from the disadvantaged or vulnerable families, the poorest community and countries are suffering more than others.
In summary, COVID-19 implication in child protection couldn’t be neglected. To mitigate risks and impact of COVID-19 to the children, the following recommendations are provided.
  • Scale up social protection programmes and services particularly targeting the most vulnerable children.
  • Support parents and caregivers on managing mental health of their own and children’s, children’s learning, safeguarding and positive discipline.
  • Expand, capacity and access of child helplines, domestic violence services, home visitation services by professional nurses and social workers to families where children are at elevated risk
  • Scale up public education and awareness campaigns on prevention and identification of domestic violence, child abuse, how to access services and assisting someone experiencing abuse particularly targeting at children, youth, caregivers and front-line service providers for children.
  • Governments should expand public education and awareness campaigns on domestic violence and child abuse, including prevention, ways to identify warning signs of potential violence at home, how to access services, and how a neighbor or friend can assist someone experiencing abuse.
  • Governments should train health, education and social service workers on the impacts that COVID-19 may have on child well-being, including increased online risks. Those providing front line mental health/psychosocial support will need skills in talking to children about COVID-19 and addressing their anxiety and insecurity. Special attention should be paid to the most vulnerable children including those separated, on the move, disabled, in conflict settings and those who may have lost parents or primary caregivers to the pandemic.
  • To complement efforts to connect children to resources for online learning, socialization and play, governments should step up educational initiatives on child online safety. These should include raising awareness about online risks and resources, using media and other communications channels to spread key messages.
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