Child Protection Matters in Emergency

Social Issues

  • Author Bikash Thapa
  • Published August 16, 2020
  • Word count 1,503

The emergency is all about saving a life. children are not in the face of COVID 19 pandemic but being protected is the fundamental right of every child because they are susceptible and suffer excessively during a crisis. Whether it is a disaster, pandemic, or armed conflict all are emergencies, therefore, jeopardize them from physical, psychological, social, and cognitive protection.

Hence, the protection of children is the prime obligation of duty bearers to safeguard right holders from all kinds of conceivable harm along with ensuring access to quality health service delivery to be safe from health hazards. The duty-bearers stand here for (state along with non-state responsibilities holders (parents, guardians, and caregivers, child protection actors) likewise, Right holders here means to those who are under the age of 18 and harm signifies to all forms of violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

In response, the Nepal government has ratified and endorsed many international policy instruments in line to recognize, promote, and protect the rights of children and mainstream into development plans and policies. Among the international policy instruments, the Convention on the Right of Child 1989, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1979, International Conference on Population and Development 1994, World Conference on Women (Beijing Plate form for Action 1995), ILO Worst Forms of Labor Convention 1999 are in the front line as a national commitment to fundamental rights of the children and adolescents globally. In addition, the National plan of action for children, National Strategy for Ending Child Marriage 2072, Children Act 2075, Civil Code 2074, Criminal Code 2074, local Governance Act 2074 is in function with a special provision for protecting child rights. Besides these, almost all ministries are implementing child rights initiatives at the national, provincial, and local levels. Also, the provincial government is drafting their child rights act for the respective province and many local level governments with support from development organizations have endorsed or planning to endorse child protection and education policy, local child marriage ending strategy, complaint response mechanism in schools are in place. Regardless of these tremendous interventions at various level apparently, the gap continues between duty bearers, state, and non-state actors. All duty bearers, state and non-state actors including responsibility holders are accountable in feeble inter and intra- agency coordination, collaboration. Further, effective implementation of the law, existing policies, and adequate emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plan continue to fall back at all levels. Without urgent action, a health emergency is turning to the child's right crisis constantly.

Moreover, transforming schools into quarantine facilities has directly impacted children's education. An entire generation of children observed education interrupted as the nationwide school has been disrupted. These circumstances could have a severe impact on school-age children even after resuming of school, since current quarantine facilities have not met standards set by WHO which can jeopardize children health as without any preparation government is planning to open school, children can be more vulnerable

Especially female children of a vulnerable community are prone to child marriage in lockdown. however, the boy child is also prone to child marriage as they are viewed as a source of income prevailing illegitimate dowry practices. The data of boy child falling into child marriage are either under-reported, not recorded, or might be very relatively low.But, the practices are still widely common in many parts of the Terai community In between a new trend within adolescents falling in infatuation and flew away together is getting common constantly across the country.

These situations are also outcomes of domestic disputes, of parents along with their poor economic background surrounded by a community with patriarchal ideals. The further inability of parents due to their own circumstances falling to understand their children, taking children as commodities (girl as burden and boy as a source of income). They do not realize psychological, emotional, and cognitive changes in children and treat them as adults. Some parent even views as a transgression of children and the only solution is to married to lessen the burden from the family. Meanwhile, getting into infatuation and engaged in the illegitimate relationships are often manifestations of failing parents to make understand the importance of relationship, lack of sex education. This can endanger girl child and stem in early pregnancy being exposed to early mortality because of the interruption of sexual and reproductive services as resources concentrate on the public health emergency and even become prey of physical, psychological abuse and sexually exploited within the family and after marriage by their husband if got wedded. Several research reports have shown that boy who got married at an early age is likely to be more violent and transform oneself into the perpetrator of domestic and gender-based violence. Also, the majority of children and adolescents who have access to digital media and phones are prone to pornographic videos i.e. easily available in social media. Thus, children are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation, neglect, and abuse both in the domestic and public sphere because schools are closed, helplines and social services are interrupted and movement is restricted.

In this context, it is essential to develop and provide child-friendly services that address emotional unrest and anxieties due to school closures. likewise, IEC materials containing helpline information with social messages should be spread on social media and distributed in the community through the child right committee, the judicial committee, and other stakeholders extensively. Likewise planning of orientation and dissemination of parental technique in the local language, organizing learning sharing activities through, radio, television, social media should be continued. Radio talk program and public announcement on health and hygiene, protection from sexual abuse and exploitation, how to keep children safe online including sexual and reproductive health awareness related activities need to be held regularly. These activities will help to keep children and adolescents safe to a great extent.

Many economists, sociologists globally already started assuming pandemic is expected to increase economic recession worldwide which likely to have a large impact on poverty levels in low-income countries where child marriage is most prevalent. Because poverty is the key driver of child marriage and education. As UNICEF states the ongoing crisis could increase the number of children living in the monetary households by up to 17 million by the end of 2020 worldwide. (UNICEF, July 2020). It is obvious that child marriage is likely to increase in vulnerable communities of Nepal since Nepal is still considered in low-income countries and child marriage is rampant in the Terai region and some rural districts of Nepal.

Moreover, child marriage is regarded as the root cause of gender equality guided by patriarchal ideals of society. Since gender equality strongly envisages a more equitable world it cannot be achieved until child marriage persists. These adverse impacts of not achieving set target reach beyond Goal 5. Unless we make significant progress on ending child marriage, Nepal will fall short on eight of the SDGs including those related to poverty, food security, health, education, gender equality, economic growth, and peace and justice (Girls Not Brides,2019)

As documented by INSEC leading human rights NGO in Nepal Total of 156 cases of child right violation was documented. Out of 156 cases of child rights violation, 105 were Rape, 46 Sexual abuse, and 5 child marriage. The data is recorded from 24 March to 16 May on 20 May 2020. Due to lockdown, there might so many such cases that could not be reported (INSEC May 2020). These children shown in data remain as hidden fighters continuing to be prone to further psychological and emotional disorders due to the inhumane act of perpetrators. However, the gravity of the offense committed by the perpetrator is often the outcome of societal silence sanction and facing other forms of gender-based violence as well. Hence, quick, midterm and long term plan with collaborative intervention are needed to protect children at or tend to be at risk Activities such as legal measures, awareness on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), mental health with psychosocial support, livelihood and nutritional support including equal representation of clinical trials, to cope with the pandemic along with disasters. Furthermore, mainstreaming of child rights and protection in local-level planning, budget and development and implementation of child protection and education policy should be done instantly. In a midterm plan, initiatives i.e. are suggested in child protection and education policy should be implemented and I/NGOs along with their regular project should open a space for implementing developed policies at provincial, local level Moreover, replication of good practices with I/NGOs should be in practice and intervention and results should be monitored from the government at the independent level.

The collaborative and integrated intervention allows multiple support mechanisms to act together towards a common goal based on protecting children in an emergency from all sorts of harm allowing them to enjoy their rights in the domestic and public sphere and finally contributing to achieving quality education and gender equality along with other 15 sustainable goals

Further, humanitarian organizations require to invest in strengthening coordination and collaboration strategy, review executed intervention, and adhere ‘DO No Harm Principle’ that applies to all duty bearers while implementing their humanitarian action

Possess extensive experience in the field of youth, child, Gender Protection and quality education in different I/NGOs in Nepal for more than 9 years

References

Girls Not Brides (2019), SDGs AND CHILD MARRIAGE, 3rd August 2020 https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/resource-centre/sdgs-and-child-marriage

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