COVID-19 – March 19 2020

Appeal to authorities, care professionals and social workers

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has led authorities to take necessary measures to ensure citizens’ health and safety. SOS Children’s Villages’ staff is committed to take all possible steps to protect children and assist families in vulnerable situations and calls on authorities, care providers and communities to carefully monitor the situation, and act to guarantee every child’s protection and care.

Although children are generally affected at a lower rate by the virus, according to the latest medical research, authorities, caregivers, organisations and the community need to be vigilant to avoid that the current situation leads to child rights violations and long-lasting trauma for them.

Children and young people who live in circumstances where they risk neglect, abuse, abandonment, exploitation and discrimination might face additional risks if care, support and monitoring by care professionals and social workers is restricted due to the coronavirus emergency.

Moreover, children and families who face social exclusion and discrimination, live in overcrowded and unsanitary environments or have pre-existing health conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis or diabetes are particularly at risk. 

The general feeling of insecurity and instability due to changing daily routines and measures caused by COVID-19 response measures affects children and causes increased distress, especially for those who have experienced neglect, abandonment, abuse and exploitation. In countries heavily affected by the virus, children’s lives have been disrupted including through witnessing deaths in their families.

Public Authorities should closely monitor the situation of children and families and offer immediate support to families who show signs of facing challenges in providing care to their children. While measures restricting contact and access to schools and public facilities are needed to reduce the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, they should not compromise children’s individual protection and care needs.

National authorities should also adopt special measures to ensure the protection of children who have no parental care and fully depend on child care professionals and social workers to receive information and care.

Authorities need to provide care professionals and social workers with adequate support to continue to monitor and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children and families. They should receive equipment, work arrangements and training to safely continue their work. Protection measures and insurances need to be put into place to compensate caregivers and social workers who put their own health at risk in providing this essential service and thus also extend a higher risk of infection to their families.

Care professionals and social workers are indispensable to guarantee all children and young people’s wellbeing.

Additional support will be needed for children and families to maintain balanced daily routines and to prevent a negative mental health impact and to uphold education, play and family communication.

Care providers and social workers should closely monitor families where parents already face challenges such as financial difficulties or physical and mental health issues. These families are now confronted with feelings of insecurity and the additional pressure and responsibility of keeping their children indoors and out of school and day care centres. Care professionals and social workers should be vigilant to risks of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse.

Communities play a key role in supporting and alerting authorities and care professionals in case children are at risk. Every member of the community, as neighbours, family members, friends or doctors should be aware of the need to pay close attention to the wellbeing of children around them.  The community’s the awareness and active participation will be essential to ensure the safety of children and young people and the support of families and community services.

SOS Children’s Villages provides quality care to around 70,000 children and young people who have lost parental care or are at risk of losing parental care in 136 countries and territories. The organisation provides global and regional guidance on the virus to our SOS member associations based on the advisories of the World Health Organization. Local staff are encouraged to follow the recommendations of their national health authorities to define measures to best protect children, staff and contribute to public health efforts in their working context.

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