Children more prone to stress and abuse during COVID-19

Despite few recorded cases among the young ones, children are still not spared from the different risks brought by the dreaded COVID-19.

Just as in any crisis or disaster, the children  become physically and emotionally vulnerable especially in the ongoing pandemic.

A global survey conducted by humanitarian organization World Vision revealed that 91 percent of children aged 8 to 13 are suffering from emotional distress and troubling feelings due to uncertainty and isolation brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.

The study, conducted between March and April 2020, interviewed 101 children from 13 developing countries, including the Philippines.

Among the negative emotions expressed by the children were anxiety, anger and worry due to uncertainty and dealing with isolation.

Across all 13 countries, the respondents highlighted three important factors that directly changed their lives on a massive scale: school disruption, emotional distress due to social distancing, and increasing poverty.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of the respondents said they felt isolated and lonely due to school closures.

Other countries included in the survey are Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Peru, Romania, Sierra Leone and Syrian refugee children.


Violence vs. children while on lockdown

Children are also among the most vulnerable during COVID-19, with anecdotal accounts of them being forced into sexual acts and other forms of domestic abuse.

From a recent report in social media, some parents  even involve their own children, as young as 3 to 5 years old, into child pornography while on lockdown.

Data from the Philippine Council for Women (PCW) show 804 incidents against women and children reported between March 15 to April 30, when Luzon and other parts of the country were subjected to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

World Vision urges the public to report cases of child abuse to the barangay authorities or to the nearest social welfare office.

Apart from abuse, poverty is also a factor in causing emotional distress among children.

The community quarantine has disrupted many livelihoods, particularly that of daily-wage earners.

Shaira, a 12-year-old girl from Quezon City laments that since the lockdown, her family  barely has enough to eat. Her father Fernand stopped working in a construction while the mother washed clothes before the quarantine.

“Now that father cannot work, it has become even harder for us. There are days when we can’t even eat,” Shaira says.

Shaira lives with her extended family in the shanties. Immediate access to clean water in her area remains  a challenge, as she has to fetch water from a deep well afar. Preventive measures such as frequent handwashing and physical distancing  become harder to practice than their usual routine.

Also read: Shaira continues to dream amid the COVID19 pandemic

“Extreme poverty and forced quarantine inside cramped houses make it even more difficult for most Filipino families to maintain a positive mindset. Children, in particular, could get depressed because of the disruption from their normal activities, such as school and play,” says World Vision National Director Rommel V. Fuerte.

“It is our duty as elders and guardians to make sure that children are able to cope with this crisis. We also have to ensure that their rights are observed and protected. The community quarantine could make children more prone to domestic abuse because they are locked down with their abusers, with no access to report to the authorities,” he adds.

As member of the Local Council for the Protection of Children Consortium, World Vision supports the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) in calling the attention of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 and other national and local government units to recognize and respond to the needs of children during the pandemic.

World Vision  also works closely with the Department of Education (DepEd) to include child protection modules and life skills workbooks in the DepEd Commons, a free online platform that provides continuous learning for children whose classes were disrupted. The materials are geared towards teaching children essential life skills, personal safety, positive coping, among others.

To date, World Vision’s COVID-19 Response has reached out to 5.7 million individuals through multi-sectoral interventions, including awareness campaigns, and the distribution of relief items kits in 22 provinces across the country. Learn more about World Vision’s ongoing Covid-19 response efforts, click here.

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