COVID-19: Children at Heightened Risk of Abuse, exploitation and violence

COVID-19: Children at Heightened Risk of Abuse, exploitation and violence

 In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already existing vulnerabilities of children, families and communities will increase their risks. They will have limited access to safety nets, inequalities in access to education and increase in poverty, reveals ‘COVID-19 and its aftershocks’- an assessment released by World Vision India through a webinar today.

The objective of this report was to assess the situation of children and families, with a focus on vulnerable groups, in order to enable World Vision India to work on response mechanisms to reduce the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Releasing the report findings, the chief guest, Ms Jyotika Kalra, Member, National Human Rights Commission said, “Being away from school for more than 5 months now means that children who were availing mid-day meal scheme are not just missing out on education but they are also missing out on nutritious food. The impact of COVID 19 on livelihoods will also increase cases of child marriages and commercial sexual exploitation.”

The rapid assessment report based on data gathered from 5668 households across 119 districts from 24 states and 2 union territories (Delhi and Kashmir) highlighted that the livelihoods of more than 60% of parents or caregivers were fully or severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily workers who form the largest segment in the survey are the worst hit. The loss of livelihoods that has resulted from government lockdown measures has become the top-most concern for the rural and urban poor. About 67% of urban parents/caregivers have reported loss of jobs or income reduction.

“Children are the worst affected during disasters due to physical, psychological and social vulnerabilities. The Rapid Assessment shows that school closures and movement restrictions has impacted children’s well-being” said Madhav Bellamkonda, National Director and CEO, World vision India. He further added that, “In these times of unprecedented crisis, it is necessary to mobilize all resources, material and human, to protect the most vulnerable.”

Data from the report revealed some crucial indicators:

  • 55.1% of the interviewed households could get only two meals a day, which indicated limited access to basic food supplies due to non-affordability challenges
  • 65.2% adults were aware of child abuse in their community and 67.4% adults were aware of domestic violence in their community
  • 95% of the respondents received relevant information on COVID-19 through various sources such as  television, mobiles, radio channels, newspapers, Information Education Communication (IEC) materials, ASHA/ Anganwadi workers, village volunteers, Community Leaders, etc.
  • About 37% of the households reported a decrease in access to various health services after the lockdown and 42% of homeless respondents did not have any access to health services. 
  • The stress on families related to loss of income, non-accessibility to school, change of children’s behaviour and quarantine measures contributed to children experiencing physical punishment and emotional abuse. The report also indicates that 40% of children are stressed out due to the current situation

World Vision India appeals to authorities for prioritizing the most vulnerable population by extending intense socio-economic and technical support. The report offers short, medium, and long-term recommendations for government, multi-lateral and implementing partners to meet the needs of vulnerable children and protect them from diseases, including all forms of violence.

Government officials and members of civil society organizations attended the Webinar. Guests of honour include, Mr Amitabh Gautam, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and Mr G. Ashok Kumar, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission.

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