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Filipino child rights groups call for inclusion of child protection in pandemic response

A child rights group in the Philippines has called on the country’s government to include the “timely implementation of child protection measures” and “positive parenting campaigns” in its pandemic response plan.

The Child Rights Network (CRN), an alliance of children’s rights organizations, made the call on April 28 in response to the reported rising number of cases of violence against children during the pandemic.

On April 20, police reported that an 18-year-old mother committed homicide when she repeatedly struck her baby with a rattan stick, eventually killing the boy.

Another case involved a 12-year-old boy who died after suddenly falling and losing consciousness after getting chased by village security personnel for violating community quarantine rules.

In the city of Lucena outside the national capital, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly raped by her father during the lockdown.

“These series of worrying incidents highlight how children are proving to also be bearing the brunt of the economic hardships brought about by the long-running community quarantines,” said Romeo Dongeto, CRN convenor.

He said cases of child abuse at home are being underreported as a result of restricted mobility, violent discipline as a social norm, inactive child protection systems, and lack of awareness on how to report abuse cases.

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The non-government group Save the Children also noted that incidence of violence against children, mostly by parents and caregivers, has dramatically increased globally during the pandemic.

The group blamed loss of income from lockdown measures resulting in increased negative feelings and reduced psycho-social well-being in the household.

A report released by the group titled “The Hidden Impact of COVID-19 on Child Protection and Well-Being” revealed that at least one in six children reported violence at home during the pandemic.

The study was based on a survey of 31,683 parents and caregivers, and 13,477 children aged between 11-17 years old in 46 countries including the Philippines.

“The result of the research study is alarming and compels us to listen to our children so we can come up with COVID-19 mitigating measures with a child-rights lens,” said Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines.

“We call on the national and local governments to prioritize child protection within COVID-19 response plans, and put children’s rights at the core of national and local level infectious disease emergency preparedness plans,” he said in a statement.

CRN’s Dongeto also called on the government to heighten protection efforts for children and to intensify their information campaign against violence against children.

He said one way to strengthen child protection at the local level is to capacitate village councils and enable them to quickly recognize, report, and refer identified cases for immediate action.

“While food, medicine, and other essential goods are indeed needed by our people, many also need child protection as well as psycho-social support and guidance for positive parenting,” he added.

Save the Children’s Muyot said the impact of the pandemic to children will go beyond the health crisis.

“We call on parents, caregivers and local government leaders to strengthen our collective efforts to uphold children’s right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect every day and in times of crisis,” he said.

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