85 million children in danger from violence due to COVID-19 impacts: World Vision

Perfect Storm, a new report released today by Mississauga’s World Vision Canada, has revealed that up to 85 million additional children are in immediate danger of physical, sexual and emotional violence in the next three months due to COVID-19 isolation measures and crushing economic, health and social pressures.
To avoid these potentially devastating effects, world leaders must urgently revise national policies to put greater priority on programs that end violence against children, warns the aid agency.
“It is vital that world leaders take responsibility for the protection of all children against violence and abuse,” says Michael Messenger, President and CEO of World Vision Canada. “We know from bitter experience that crises, including conflict and the spread of deadly diseases, increase violence against the most vulnerable girls and boys. The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a recent example. Looking ahead, it’s deeply worrying to think about the crushing economic and social impacts of COVID-19, which will put up to 85 million more children in harm’s way.”
Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm reviews information from World Vision programs, reports of increased domestic violence around the world, and surges in calls to child helplines, as well as from their extensive experience in previous crises.
To make matters worse, recent studies of Official Development Assistance (ODA) data estimate that less than 0.6 per cent of total global spending is allocated to ending violence against children.
“As (the) Coronavirus sweeps across every country on earth, millions of people have found refuge by isolating in their homes,” says Simon Lewchuk, author of the report and Senior Policy Advisor at World Vision Canada.
“Unfortunately, home is not a safe space for everyone, schools and community centres can no longer protect vulnerable children in the way they would usually. World Vision staff are seeing a spike in the incidence of child abuse and violence.”
For example, in Bangladesh, April’s national impact and needs assessment compiled by a range of stakeholders including World Vision revealed that beatings by parents or guardians had increased by 42 per cent; that there was a 40 per cent increase of calls to the child helpline; and that 50 per cent of those interviewed said the safety and security of girls was an issue in the lockdown.
Apart from the threat of child abuse, World Vision also predicts an increase in child marriage and child labour as financial difficulties take a toll on struggling families.
“It has been recently estimated that there will be an additional 13 million child marriages over the next ten years due to COVID-19,” says Lewchuk. “Our experience shows that most of these marriages will occur in the years immediately following the crises, with the potential to see at least four million more girls married in the next two years.”

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Surjit Singh Flora
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