Picture: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

As we battle Covid-19 the protection and care of children must be prioritised

By SOS Children's Villages Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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National Child Protection Week (31 May – 07 June 2020) takes a whole new meaning this year as the battle now also includes an invisible enemy, Covid-19 and all its other side effects. This National Campaign was introduced to raise awareness of the rights of children living in South Africa in accordance with the Children’s Act of 2005. SOS Children’s Villages continues to create awareness of child protection against many elements that compromise their safety and wellbeing. 

Children’s rights are not only a basic value but also an obligation clearly set out in Article 28 of the South African Constitution. When the National State of Disaster was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the protection of children against Covid-19 also became a priority to all those that provide care and support to vulnerable children.  

The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus has led authorities to take necessary measures to ensure citizens’ health and safety. SOS Children’s Villages South Africa is committed to take all possible steps to protect children and assist families in vulnerable situations and calls on authorities, care providers and communities to act to guarantee every child’s protection and care.

It is undoubtedly a fact that Covid-19 has pushed us all out of our comfort zones, some more than others. The daunting question that looms is how do we continue protecting our vulnerable children when we are currently in a state of extreme vulnerability?  

Although children are generally affected at a lower rate by the virus, according to the latest medical research, authorities, caregivers, organisations and the community need to be vigilant to avoid that the current situation leads to child rights violations and long-lasting trauma for them.

Children and young people who live in circumstances where they risk neglect, abuse, abandonment, exploitation and discrimination might face additional risks if care, support and monitoring by care professionals and social workers is restricted due to the coronavirus emergency.

The general feeling of insecurity and instability due to changing daily routines and measures caused by Covid-19 response measures affects children and causes increased distress, especially for those who have experienced neglect, abandonment, abuse and exploitation.

While the national lockdown to reduce contact is necessary to reduce the further spread of the Covid-19 virus, children’s individual protection and care needs should not be compromised.

Authorities should also adopt special measures to ensure the protection of children who have no parental care and fully depend on child care professionals and social workers to receive information and care.

Authorities need to provide care professionals and social workers with adequate support to continue to monitor and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children and families. Care professionals and social workers are indispensable to guarantee all children and young people’s wellbeing.

Care providers and social workers should closely monitor families where parents already face challenges such as financial difficulties or physical and mental health issues. These families are now confronted with feelings of insecurity and the additional pressure and responsibility of keeping their children indoors and out of school. Care professionals and social workers should be vigilant to risks of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse.

The community’s awareness and active participation will be essential to ensure the safety of children and young people and the support of families and community services.

SOS Children’s Villages is an independent, non-governmental organisation that advocates for the rights of South Africa’s most marginalised children. Established in 1984, SOS has eight Children’s Villages and three Social Centres across eight provinces.

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