Kampala (September 16)- Physical and emotional violence against children has risen in Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report by six child rights organisations reveals today. The report indicates that 65.8% of the children interviewed have experienced physical or emotional violence from their caregivers in the month leading up to December 2020 alone. The report, “Protecting children during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: A report on child protection needs during the pandemic in five African countries”, also states that there has been an increment in child and forced marriages and child labour and attributes the increase in violence against children to the high-stress levels due to movement restrictions and loss of incomes.
Schools in Uganda remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in districts like Bugiri, children have been forced to supplement family earnings with heavy, dangerous labour. One of the respondents said: “Child labour has increased in Budue-Buwolya parish. For example, children under the age of 15–17 years are working in the mining sites which is so dangerous to them and this has resulted in death because the soil subsided over them due to the slippery nature of the mining site.”
Similarly, uncertainty and prolonged periods of confinement at home have led to an increasingly stressful environment for both parents and children. According to the report, children reported more emotional abuse during the pandemic – being shouted at, bullied, cursed, and intimidated from parents and caregivers.
The measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 also affected the ability of formal and informal structures to protect children. More than 80% of the respondents suggested that children, caregivers, and duty bearers did not have the full capacity to prevent and respond to child protection risks. Also, public health measures affected case management performance, particularly as child protection services were temporarily closed and resources diverted into COVID-19 prevention and response. The closing of schools also meant that teachers were unable to monitor and protect children from violence. These gaps left children at risk of abuse.
As the Joining Forces coalition works to implement a three-year European Union-funded project to
strengthen child protection systems in communities, districts and at national level, we call on various stakeholders to make child protection a priority.
Government should ensure adequate financing of child protection systems and mechanisms by prioritising the functionality of formal child protection structures within communities, including schools. The coalition also calls other child focused organisations to work with government to strengthen the capacity of the different child protection structures by providing technical, material, and financial support.
Government should also prioritise the funding and safe return to school for all children. As children return, parents and teachers should ensure the learning environment is violence free because children learn better when they feel safe, supported, and unafraid.
About Joining Forces Coalition
The Joining Forces coalition is a global alliance of six of the world’s leading child rights organisations: Child Fund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes and World Vision. These organisations are united to end violence against all children and secure the rights of every child.
About the report
Joining Forces together with Somero, a local partner, carried out a needs assessment to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s protection risks including those living with disability. The aim was to assess the child protection needs that were revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to curb its spread. The assessment was carried out in six districts- Obongi, Gulu, Kampala, Wakiso, Bugiri and Busia.
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