COVID highlights the scale of violence against children
While the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, this health emergency has magnified another crisis which is plaguing countries across the globe. And it’s the shocking, innumerable instances of violence against children should be keeping each and every one of us awake at night.
It is an issue which has not escaped the attentions of humanitarian aid agency World Vision, which is going all out to highlight this crisis by urging governments and decision-makers everywhere to do everything in their power to end this.
Leading the call is Tamara Tutnjevic, World Vision’s senior policy advisor for ending violence against children. “The world is out of excuses, but not yet out of time to transform our societies, to put an end to violence against children and ensure brighter futures for our children,” she says.
‘The world is out of excuses’
Every year at the beginning of July, she adds, the United Nations hosts the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. This year, the forum has quite an ambitious task: to reflect on progress in implementation of Agenda 2030 in the context of the biggest public health pandemic in the recent history. A crisis that has, quite unexpectedly, revealed another pandemic that has been plaguing our societies. The pandemic of violence against children.
“Within weeks of putting in place measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, including restriction of movement, closure of public spaces and schools, we have witnessed of the increase in violence at home,” says Tutnjevic.
“From Cyprus to Argentina, SOS hotlines on domestic violence have been reporting increased numbers of calls and incidents of violence. World Vision’s recent Aftershocks report estimated an 32 per cent increase in violence against children as a result of COVID-19 outbreak, leaving up to 85 more million children vulnerable to violence. These predictions are sadly proving to be true as we receive more reports from different communities where we work–all pointing to increase in violence at home, in communities and online.”
‘Devastating impact on children and our societies’
She says that even as some countries are easing up movement control measures, care centres and schools are not likely to reopen everywhere, public spaces may still be out of reach for children and, with looming economic crisis, the threat of violence is not likely to disappear. “It is in fact, more likely to become permanent fixture in the months and years to come with devastating impact on children and our societies – if we are to safeguard our children form the future marked by fear and violence, we need to act urgently.
However, she acknowledges the ‘truth’ which is protection of children from violence is rarely high on the political and national development agendas. “The strong commitments are made, as the Agenda 2030 clearly shows, but they are yet to result in a lasting change. At the same time, five months of response to COVID-19 have shown that things can be done quickly to address an imminent and increasing threat of violence.”
‘We are at the brink of a new era in humanity’
Tutjnjevic sets out five things that governments must do to speed up actions to end violence against children:
- Recognise child protection as a life-saving intervention and scale up interventions that work to prevent violence to reach every child wherever she or he lives
- Protect and increase funding allocated to systems and services to prevent and end violence against children
- Put in place social protection measures to support vulnerable families and ensure access to essential services for children to discourage child marriage, child labour and sexual violence
- Strengthen and invest in data collection mechanisms to monitor how effectiveness of efforts to end violence against children
- Listen to and involve children in development of policies and solutions that affect their lives.
We are at the brink of the new era in humanity, facing a crisis that has exposed all the weakness in our world – inequality, racism, and violence against children,” adds Tutnjevic.
“The promise of peaceful, just and inclusive societies, embodied in the Agenda 2030 and especially of SDG 16, is more important than ever. So is fulfilling of the most transformative part of that promise: ending violence in childhood.”
Your work on the effects of children’s play deprivation caused by the virus is very powerful, Tim. Any way we can help to improve things locally or internationally?