We are facing an unprecedented global public health crisis. While children’s health appears to be less directly affected by COVID-19, it must be recognized that the outbreak will deeply affect the environment where children grow and develop.
“Sadly, what is often overlooked is the impact this situation will have on children, especially those who are most deprived and marginalized,” said Rowena Cordero, Joining Forces Alliance Convener.
“In situations like this, children’s safety, protection, and well-being may be put at risk, and their rights may be violated and compromised,” Cordero stressed.
Actions to prevent the spread of the pandemic have been stern — with entire communities on lockdown, economic activities limited, and schools closed. In the Philippines alone, a total of 22,558,138 or 100% of learners are already affected due to suspension of classes, the Department of Education reported.
Parents and caregivers of these children are also affected due to disruption of their economic activities. In 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment estimated that more than 15 million parents and guardians are reliant on the informal economy.
Such economic stress and education disruption could significantly increase cases of child labor, sexual exploitation, and violence against children.
In solidarity with child rights advocates in the Philippines, the Joining Forces Alliance calls the attention of the public, the national and local government, frontliners, civil society, communities, parents and guardians to recognize and respond to the needs of children.
Measures to prevent and respond to incidents of violence and to protect every Filipino child must be included in all COVID-19 plans of action, both at the national and local levels:
● Protection and social welfare services should have adequate funding support.
● Special attention must be given to communities placed under quarantine. This should include disaggregated data (age, sex, disability) and monitoring of children at increased risk of violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
● At the local level, barangays and municipalities should ensure that the Barangay Child Protection Committee (BCPC), Gender Desks, Sexual Harassment Desks, and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Desks are functional.
● National and local authorities must also ensure that planning and decision-making processes include voices of the children themselves, ensuring that their perspectives are heard and their needs are met.
“Equally important is to consider and listen to children’s perspectives throughout the response process to ensure that our approaches are relevant and responsive to their needs,” said Cordero.
Girls and young women, as well as boys and young men, can play important roles in local leadership, such as in community child protection and social welfare initiatives.
The Joining Forces Alliance supports the efforts of the national and local government in containing the spread of COVID-19. Community quarantine and isolation are very important steps to limit the spread of the virus and in flattening the curve. The Joining Forces Alliance dedicates its resources and efforts to provide additional support to the national government’s response to COVID-19, especially in ensuring that every Filipino child is protected from all forms of violence during this pandemic.