Child Rights Network has expressed fear that the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic may derail the gains Malawi has achieved towards attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on children’s rights.
The network, which has been registered by child rights’ organizations, including Plan International Malawi, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Village Malawi and World Vision Malawi, further predicts that the virus will also cause untold economic distress and exacerbate poverty while exposing the children, especially the girl child to abuse and violence.
In a statement the network issued on Monday and made available to Nyasa Times, the network predicts that healthcare services, education, protection and other basic social and community services are some of the children’s rights likely to be affected.
The statement has been signed by Plan International Malawi Communications and Campaigns Manager, Rogers Siula, Senior Manager responsible for Advocacy and Communications at Save the Children, Edith Tsilizani, Linda Harawa of SOS Children’s Villages Malawi and Charles Gwengwe who is the Director of Communications, Advocacy and Justice for Children at World Vision International.
The four organizations say, for instance, that with the declaration of a State of Disaster and closure of schools, hundreds and thousands of children are being denied their right to learn, which will negatively impact their mental and social development.
“As child rights organizations, we are obliged to advocate for strategies and approaches to protect the most vulnerable children and ensure their rights are protected even during the COVID-19 pandemic because even before the Covid-19 crisis, many children in Malawi were out of school so the school closures only compounded the situation,” reads the statement in part.
The statement further notes that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and places women, girls, and other vulnerable populations at a greater risk of violence.
It says incidences of violence against children and gender based and domestic violence may likely increase with potential heightened parental anxieties and frustrations.
“On food security and nutrition, over 80 per cent of the population in Malawi is engaged in agricultural smallholder farming and contribute 75 per cent to the food consumed in the country.
“The recurring droughts, floods and negative impacts of climate change have adversely affected agricultural productivity because the farmers are not able to prepare land on time, buy seeds, access essential inputs and markets thus negatively impacting their and the country’s food entitlement. The families are already struggling because of climate change shocks and food shortage,” they emphasize.
The network has since recommended that government and development partners must scale up investment in health systems strengthening to allow Malawi to respond to the outbreak without compromising the health services which promote the protection of children.
It further urges government and development partners to meaningfully involve children in the COVID-19 response and decision-making processes.
“[We call upon government and development partners to] prioritize information and communication needs of children and adolescents when rolling out inclusive national and community communication campaigns. Consult children and adolescents to understand their concerns, fears and needs. Develop child friendly communication tools; translate them into different local languages and disseminate using multiple channels,” they recommend.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :