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22.04.2020 - Press releases

Covid-19: Children in distress

Terre des hommes is facing unprecedented difficulties in its areas of intervention, in particular supply problems, restricted access to populations and uncertainty regarding donor support. The Swiss children's aid organisation is worried about the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis on children who are already at risk. The issues of educational disruption and exploitation are particularly worrying. The Swiss NGO stresses the need to strengthen child protection measures in the response to the pandemic.

While Switzerland is seeing a decline in deaths linked to the coronavirus, the pandemic continues to spread at an alarming rate elsewhere. Epidemic outbreaks spread at lightning speed in overpopulated regions where sanitary conditions are already poor, which further complicates humanitarian work. Access to basic protective equipment remains extremely difficult. The situation is tense in all of the organisation’s countries of operation.

We are already seeing the dramatic impact of the pandemic on children. More than 1.5 billion* children are affected by the closure of schools. Two thirds of countries worldwide have set up distance learning platforms. Without access to digital technology, however, one third of the world's children at risk of having to drop out of school as a result of confinement. Prevention measures have reaffirmed inequalities and increased the risk of exclusion. Educational disruption, domestic violence, malnutrition: the effects of confinement affect children at all levels.

We are not all equal when it comes to the coronavirus. The situation is already difficult; currently 386 million* children are living below the poverty line, but the threat of separation as a result of Covid-19 deaths and the violent environment in which these children live further diminish their resilience. As a result, they find themselves in great distress”, says Maria Bray, child protection specialist at Terre des hommes.

In addition to being a source of social exclusion and food insecurity, the coronavirus has increased exploitation, including sexual and physical abuse, teenage marriages and violence against girls. Children being detained in overcrowded camps or in custody are particularly at risk. Their stigmatisation reinforces their psychological suffering and stress. Terre des hommes has succeeded in obtaining agreements for the provisional release and acquittal of 410 detained children, following its action with the judicial authorities.

The Swiss NGO is currently adapting its means of intervention and strengthening its prevention activities in at-risk communities. Providing psychosocial support to children remains a cornerstone of its activities. The organisation is currently lobbying States to ensure that children's rights are taken into account in the response to the pandemic and that they have equal access to information, protection measures, care and education. Terre des hommes urges its donors to increase their commitment to saving lives and to strengthening work in the field with children who are severely affected by the consequences of Covid-19.

*Source : United Nations.

Photo credit: ©Tdh/Anastasiia Dereko

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