- When a child is exposed to adverse conditions in childhood, the likelihood of committing a crime and being incarcerated increases 20 times.
- They are bound to be more destructive and less resourceful.
Over the last five months, the world has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic. The socioeconomic impact is extraordinary.
Children are more vulnerable from the resultant violence associated with a rise in stressful situations. As 1.5 billion children are locked out school by the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority are trapped in an unending web of violence at home, in close proximity to those who should be caring for them and loving them. Long before the coronavirus pandemic started, more than one billion children were already suffering from some form of violence every year. This number has now surged.
Secondary effects of violence, the most horrific being trauma, stay with children longer and impact them in different ways than they do for adults.
A traumatised child is likely to suffer from stunted growth, perform poorly in school, and is bound to retreat from spaces that could otherwise offer them growth and development. Homes, which should normally be spaces that offer care and love to children, have become places where they are tormented even as their learning and self-development in schools and in other places to play, dramatically shrink.
The global cost of inaction in preventing violence against children is a staggering $7 trillion every year. When a child is exposed to adverse conditions in childhood, the negative effect throughout his or her life is staggering – including the likelihood of committing a crime and being incarcerated, increasing 20 times. They are bound to be more destructive and less resourceful.
Children and youth are more likely to go online during lockdown. So do digital predators. Europol, Interpol and other security agencies have warned parents to pay more attention to what their children are accessing online, especially during Covid-19.
The pandemic has exacerbated fragility and poverty in families across the Global South. With increased poverty, children will likely be pushed to engage in forced labour, and driven onto the streets to beg. This increases their exposure to all manner of violence.
It is therefore important that authorities pay special attention to this vulnerable section, whose suffering goes unnoticed even when there is no pandemic. Children’s protection services are crucial to stem the violence.
Responsive mechanisms that immediately deal with reports of violence against children should be put in place by both the ministries responsible for children and of Interior, especially training the police in how to detect and respond to violence against children.
UN secretary general Antonio Gutierrez estimates that Covid-19 will drive between 42 and 66 million children into extreme poverty. Immediate actions to be taken include interventions that minimise the impact of poverty; support caregivers, parents and guardians to care better for the children; and prioritise children’s services and response, especially for those in dire need.
Secretary General, Global Network of Religions for Children; Director of Arigatou International