Children At Increased Risk Of Sexual Violence During Covid-19 Pandemic – UNICEF
UNICEF office in Botswana says it has noted with concern the alarming numbers of children who have been raped since the beginning of the lockdown.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear that out of 22 rape cases reported, 7 of them are of children aged between 2 and 13 years. In addition, the Botswana Police Service have registered 23 cases of defilement in the same week,” said Acting UNICEF Representative, Sarah Ng’inja.
UNICEF said it condemns in the strongest terms the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and urges all stakeholders to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. The E Seng Mo Ngwaneng campaign which was launched in 2018 was part of efforts to raise awareness of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Botswana.
“The message is still clear. E Seng Mo Ngwaneng!” the Acting UNICEF Representative noted.
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children and families across the country. School closures and movement restrictions are disrupting children’s routines and support systems, adding new stressors on them and their caregivers. Some parents are struggling to care for their children and the protection risks for children are mounting.
UNICEF has recommended that all stakeholders (authorities, families, caregivers and communities) take concrete steps to ensure that protection of children is an integral part of COVID-19 prevention and response measures.
UNICEF says such measures included the training health, education and child services staff on COVID-19 related child protection risks, including sexual exploitation and abuse and how to safely report concerns.
It also recommends training first responders on how to manage disclosure of violence against children and collaborate with healthcare services to support violence survivors, engaging children, particularly adolescents, in assessing how COVID-19 affects them differently to inform programming and advocacy.
Further the increase increase in information-sharing on referral and other support services available for children, and targeting communities with key messages on the prevention of any form of violence against children especially sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
UNICEF has further recommended that support be provided to interim care centers and families, including child-headed households and foster families, to emotionally support children and engage in appropriate self-care as well as the provision of financial and material assistance to families whose income generating opportunities have been affected.
The introduction of concrete measures to prevent child-family separation, and ensure support for children left alone without adequate care due to the hospitalization or death of a parent or caregiver; and ensuring the protection of all children is given the utmost consideration during these turbulent times are also interventions suggested by the agency.