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The violent virus that touched childhood

Reopening schools is not enough. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services are essential. The abuse and violence suffered by minors during the pandemic must also be ended.

 

Ibis Frade

 

While some countries in the world are announcing or preparing the return to school for children, the United Nations Organisation (UN) is warning about the scant resources that these schools have in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Access to water and sanitation services is essential for a safe return to classes in the context of the pandemic suffered around the world, according to the secretary general of the multilateral entity, Antonio Guterres. Last year, he said, 43% of schools in the world did not have basic hand-washing facilities.

According to a report by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every five schools in the world lacked facilities for washing hands and soap before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, the report warns, 818 million children are lacking basic facilities for washing hands in their schools, and this puts them at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 and other contagious diseases.

More than a third of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the least developed countries, it adds, half of schools lack basic water and sanitation services.

To prioritise children’s education and reopen schools in a safe way in the middle of the pandemic, it is fundamental to have facilities to wash hands with soap and water, according to UNICEF and the WHO.

Both UN agencies emphasised that governments should balance the need to implement public health measures with the social and economic impacts associated with restrictions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. In this way, they indicated that there is clear proof of the negative impact of prolonged school closures on children.

Minors also run a greater risk of suffering from violence and exploitation due to the Covid-19 pandemic severely interrupting the services of prevention and response to this abuse.

This is shown by a recent survey carried out by UNICEF, in which 136 countries participated. Of these nations, 104 had interrupted services related to dealing with and tackling violence against minors.

In the middle of the pandemic, daily and community life is disrupted. Children with a history of abuse can be seen as even more vulnerable, both at home and online, and they can experience more frequent and serious acts of violence, warned UNICEF.

In these moments, the UN agency stressed that 1,800 million minors are living in 104 countries where services of prevention and response to violence ceased due to Covid-19, and among the most affected includes the case management and home visits for women and children at risk of abuse.

For this, the United Nations Children’s Fund asked governments to prioritise the maintenance of programmes to help and protect youngsters from violence.

The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, emphasised that the continuing closures of schools and restrictions of movement left some children trapped at home with increasingly stressed abusers.

Many of those children do not now have anywhere to go in search of help, nor do they have protective services, she highlighted.

Limited contact for minors of informal protection networks as friends, teachers, distant relatives and members of the community leaves the smallest ones adrift. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: donna_davison@hotmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

 

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