How do you ensure the total safety of a five-year old boy living with his family in a ‘face-me I face you’ apartment (as it is commonly called here in Nigeria) in these trying times?
Children are most vulnerable
How does he stay protected and guarded? Unlike the matured adult, how does he avoid touching his face with unwashed hands while playing or sweating? How do you ensure he’s not having contact with others in the neighbourhood? If not outside, there are neighbours all around? How does he stay totally secured against coronavirus?
With over 200 nations affected, it is no longer news that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic and as we all continue to navigate the rapidly evolving situation, it is very crucial to stay informed on the latest news and updates about the virus and its effect, particularly on children. As the virus continues to spread across the nations of the earth like wildfire, we are all facing different stresses such as physical and psychological risks, offices and school closures, societal isolation, economic recession, and family confinement. Without a doubt, we are convinced that children are particularly vulnerable at this time.
The adults can do everything to protect themselves, but the children will look to their parents for protection and safety.
But there is a flip side to this thing…
While it is true that the pandemic is having a devastating impact on the world population and several efforts are being carried out to salvage the global population, it is also true that this pandemic is exposing children to increasing risk of violence, and delinquencies.
Facts have it that one-third of the global population is currently on lockdown as a result of coronavirus, and school closures have affected more than 1.5 billion children. With restriction to movement, isolation, income suspension, increasing anxiety and fight for survival, it is becoming more logical for children to experience and enagage in different physical, psychological and sexual abuse now that they are at home, especially those who live in poor and functional families.
On the other hand, for the privileged children taking advantage of online communities and technological advancements to further learning, support and play, the unnoticed effect is that it is also increasing their exposure to cybercrime, cyberbullying, porn and other vices.
Of course, these effects are magnified by children’s isolation away from close friends, teachers and the school environment. The most vulnerable of them – displaced orphans, children with disabilities, unprivileged ones without parental care, and those living in the slums – are of more concern. The increasing economic lockdown will likely lead many into child labour, child marriage, and theft.
Isn’t this the root of the so-called “One million gang” in Lagos, Nigeria? According to reports, these are children aged 11-25 burgling into people’s houses in their numbers and robbing them of their treasures due to the restriction of movement and economic lockdown.
Hope is not lost
At a time like this when everyone seems to be fighting for their own survival, we are again reminded of our mission to amplify the voice of every child.
In the midst of this pandemic, governments have a central role to play in subduing COVID-19 but we all also have our individual and collective roles to play in subduing the virus and its resulting effects in our environment. As parents, our collective response should include providing basic needs, verified health information, and social support for every child in the simplest way they understand while also ensuring social protection.