Child Protection programming is essential in fragile contexts because more often than not, children do not have a voice. When a disaster strikes, such as a flood, everybody is trying to survive and the protection and well-being of children is often overlooked.
It happened when World Vision responded to the floods that affected close to 50,000 people in May. The floods came at a time when families were coping with the effects of the lockdown. These two emergencies greatly affected every aspect of children’s lives and the need for a child-focused response was immense. The displacement and impact of livelihoods of the floods contributed to a rash of child abuse and child well-being issues that made children vulnerable to abuse:
Lack of basic needs, such as children who reported having just one meal a day.
This makes children vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in exchange for food and other basic needs.
The risk of exposure to sexual activities between adults and sexual exploitation of children resulting in early pregnancies due to congestion of adolescent boys and girls and men and women in the camps.
Poor menstrual hygiene management. The need for sanitary items for girls including pads, panties and soap. It was reported that girls and women used dry banana leaves as sanitary pads.
Children traumatised by the near-death experience. There are no play materials for children—this is necessary for the children’s physical and psychological wellbeing.
Child neglect. There were a few children living on their own, having been separated from their families.
The absence of lighting in the camps, which threatens the safety of children and their families, especially at night when it is completely dark.
The location of some camps near the national parks is a safety threat, as wild animals could attack the children and families.
Children experienced gender-based violence, especially when their parents engaged in fights and other forms of violence.
Law enforcement agencies, specifically the police, are only accessible to people in camps in urban areas. The camps in rural areas do not have such social services and thus manage their affairs themselves. Worse still, structures such as the Child Protection Committees do not seem to exist or are not active.
World Vision responded with a 5-month project to support the districts’ interventions—taking care of the children, supporting them, and ensuring that they were safe in the camps and community. Understanding that we are supporting the community for a short period, staff had to ensure that the communities were empowered. This became increasingly necessary as flooding and displacement continuously affected these communities, and communities beyond. We worked with children, parents/caregivers, local leaders, faith and cultural leaders as it is everyone’s responsibility to end violence against children.
We implemented this project along with a multi-purpose cash project, supported by ECHO, which enabled the most vulnerable families to find an income generating source. This has enabled many families to get back on their feet and, in turn, protect children.
I believe that these revived and empowered child protection structures and the wider appreciation of the role everyone has to protect children, along with renewed local leadership vigour will ensure that communities continue to remain safer for children.