World Vision: 85 million children in immediate danger from violence due to COVID-19 impacts

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Highlights:

  • New report reveals up to 85 million additional chilldren are in immediate danger of physical, sexual and emotional violence in the next three months due to COVID-19
  • World leaders must urgently revise national policies to put greater priority on programs that end violence against children
Kabita, 12, looks out on her village in northern Bangladesh waiting for the lockdown to lift. Because of the restrictions, her father is unable to work, and without his income there isn’t much food to eat. The lockdown combined with the added stress of hunger and uncertainty means an increase in domestic violence for many families. Photo: World Vision Bangladesh staff
(May 15, 2020)
Perfect Storm, a new report released today by World Vision, reveals that up to 85-million additional children are in immediate danger of physical, sexual and emotional violence in the next three months due to COVID-19 isolation measures and crushing economic, health and social pressures. 

To avoid these potentially devastating effects, world leaders must urgently revise national policies to put greater priority on programs that end violence against children, warns the aid agency.

“It is vital that world leaders take responsibility for the protection of all children against violence and abuse,” says Michael Messenger, President and CEO of World Vision Canada. “We know from bitter experience that crises, including conflict and the spread of deadly diseases, increase violence against the most vulnerable girls and boys. The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a recent example. Looking ahead, it’s deeply worrying to think about the crushing economic and social impacts of COVID-19, which will put up to 85 million more children in harm’s way.”

Aftershocks – A Perfect Storm reviews information from World Vision programs, reports of increased domestic violence around the world, and surges in calls to child helplines, as well as from their extensive experience in previous crises. To make matters worse, recent studies of Official Development Assistance (ODA) data estimate that less than 0.6% of total global spending is allocated to ending violence against children.

“As coronavirus sweeps across every country on earth, millions of people have found refuge by isolating in their homes,” says Simon Lewchuk, author of the report and Senior Policy Advisor at World Vision Canada. “Unfortunately, home is not a safe space for everyone, schools and community centres can no longer protect vulnerable children in the way they would usually. World Vision staff are seeing a spike in the incidence of child abuse and violence.”

For example in Bangladesh, April’s national impact and needs assessment compiled by a range of stakeholders including World Vision revealed that beatings by parents or guardians had increased by 42%; that there was a 40% increase of calls to the child helpline; and that 50% of those interviewed said the safety and security of girls was an issue in the lockdown. 

Apart from the threat of child abuse, World Vision also predicts an increase in child marriage and child labour as financial difficulties take a toll on struggling families.
 
"It has been recently estimated that there will be an additional 13 million child marriages over the next ten years due to COVID-19,” says Lewchuk. “Our experience shows that most of these marriages will occur in the years immediately following the crises, with the potential to see at least four million more girls married in the next two years."
 
  • 85 million additional vulnerable children, including refugees, in immediate danger from physical, sexual and emotional violence within 3 months
  • 13 million additional child marriages expected due to lasting impacts, 4 million within the next few years
  • 42% spike in violence against children reported by World Vision staff in some areas

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