COVID-19: Protecting children and assisting families who need support
Calling on authorities and care professionals to prevent a ‘care gap’
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has led authorities to take necessary measures to ensure citizens’ health and safety. SOS Children’s Villages’ South Africa staff is committed to take all possible steps to protect children and assist families in vulnerable situations and calls on authorities, care providers and communities to act to guarantee every child’s protection and care.
Although children are generally affected at a lower rate by the virus, according to the latest medical research, authorities, caregivers, organisations and the community need to be vigilant to avoid that the current situation leads to child rights violations and long-lasting trauma for them.
Children and young people who live in circumstances where they risk neglect, abuse, abandonment, exploitation and discrimination might face additional risks if care, support and monitoring by care professionals and social workers is restricted due to the coronavirus emergency.
Moreover, children and families who face social exclusion and discrimination, live in overcrowded and unsanitary environments or have pre-existing health conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis or diabetes are particularly at risk.
The general feeling of insecurity and instability due to changing daily routines and measures caused by COVID-19 response measures affects children and causes increased distress, especially for those who have experienced neglect, abandonment, abuse and exploitation.
While the National Shutdown to reduce contact is necessary to reduce the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, children’s individual protection and care needs should not be compromised.
Authorities should also adopt special measures to ensure the protection of children who have no parental care and fully depend on child care professionals and social workers to receive information and care.
Authorities need to provide care professionals and social workers with adequate support to continue to monitor and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children and families. Care professionals and social workers are indispensable to guarantee all children and young people’s wellbeing.
Care providers and social workers should closely monitor families where parents already face challenges such as financial difficulties or physical and mental health issues. These families are now confronted with feelings of insecurity and the additional pressure and responsibility of keeping their children indoors and out of school. Care professionals and social workers should be vigilant to risks of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse.
The community’s awareness and active participation will be essential to ensure the safety of children and young people and the support of families and community services.