“Children’s press conference” speaks out on the devastating impact of Covid-19
- New report shows increasing threats to children’s protection and wellbeing
Children from all over Uganda are taking part in a virtual “Children’s Press Conference” today, to speak out about how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting their lives and ask questions to government representatives.
The conference – organised by the “Joining Forces” coalition made up of ChildFund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes and World Vision – is being broadcast live on NTV as part of a week of events to commemorate the Day of the African Child. It will feature children and officials from the Ministries of Health; Education & Sports; Gender, Labour & Social Development; and the Police Force.
A new report published by the Joining Forces coalition – “Keeping children safe in Uganda’s Covid-19 response” – shows there has been a significant increase in child protection concerns since the outbreak began. This includes a rise in violence and abuse against children, increasing poverty and hunger, and more children forced into harmful practices such as child labour and child marriage. With schools closed, many children are still not benefiting from home learning and risk being left behind.
In one child protection assessment by a Joining Forces partner, 60% of people surveyed said they have observed an increase in sexual violence against children since lockdown began, and 80% reported that parents are using violence against children. Impoverished girls – who are being pushed further into poverty during lockdown – are increasingly trading sex for money, food and even sanitary towels.
While children are not considered to be at highest risk of contracting Covid-19, they are extremely vulnerable to these ‘secondary’ social and economic impacts, which could affect children for the rest of their lives – long after lockdown measures have been eased.
In such a situation it is vital that children’s views are taken into account, and that information about the outbreak is adapted for children. Children taking part are highlighting a range of issues:
Neema, from Kakiri in central Uganda, notes, “the President says the government will distribute TVs to villages to help children learn. But some villages don’t even have electricity. What will be done to help them?
Barrack, from Busia in the east of the country, says, “Children are having to hawk goods to truck drivers and nothing is being done to stop them or help them.”
Lucy, from Napak district, says, “We can’t afford soap and face masks so how can we follow the guidelines?”
Jonathan, from Kampala, says, “Some children have still not got study materials. Some have been given drugs to sell and use. Some live in slums and their parents have lost jobs. How is the government going to help these children?”
Sharon, from Wakiso, asks, “When will we able to go back to school? Girls are getting dormant and pregnant while schools are closed.”
Josephine, also from Wakiso, says, “We no longer have enough food. My parents can’t afford to give us two meals as it used to be before COVID. We now just have one meal. We take tea without sugar because we cannot afford it.”
The Joining Forces coalition is calling on the Government and international donors to:
dedicate specific resources to ensure that children are protected during the outbreak, particularly when risks to children are higher while schools are closed
ensure children can continue learning while out of school by providing each child with the necessary study materials, and plan for gradual safe re-opening of schools following the national guideline
ensure public information campaigns include age-appropriate materials to inform children and that their voices are taken into account in all decision making processes
effectively enforce laws to protect children and prosecute all cases of violence and abuse of children
Extend financial and technical support to families and child-headed households to cushion them from the economic hardships caused by the pandemic