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Global status report on preventing violence against children calls for more government action and warns of ‘dramatic impact’ of COVID-19

Global status report on preventing violence against children calls for more government action and warns of ‘dramatic impact’ of COVID-19

WINDHOEK – Half of the world’s children, or approximately 1 billion children each year are affected by physical, sexual or psychological violence, suffering injuries, disabilities and death, because countries have failed to follow established strategies to protect them.

This is according to a new report published on 18 June 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on  Violence against Children, and the End Violence Partnership in New York.

“There is never any excuse for violence against children,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“We have evidence-based tools to prevent it, which we urge all countries to implement. Protecting the health and well-being of children is central to protecting our collective health and well-being, now and for the future.”

The report – Global Status Report on Preventing Violence Against Children 2020 – is the first of its kind, charting progress in 155 countries against the “INSPIRE” framework, a set of seven strategies for

preventing and responding to violence against children. The report signals a clear need in all countries to scale up efforts to implement them. While nearly all countries (88%) have key laws in place to protect children against violence, less than half of countries (47%) said these were being strongly enforced.

The report includes the first ever global homicide estimates specifically for children under 18 years of age – previous estimates were based on data that included 18 to 19-year olds. It finds that, in 2017, around 40,000 children were victims of homicide.

“Violence against children has always been pervasive, and now things could be getting much worse,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Lockdowns, school closures and movement restrictions have left far too many children stuck with their abusers, without the safe space that school would normally offer. It is urgent to scale up efforts to protect children during these times and beyond,

including by designating social service workers as essential and strengthening child helplines.”

In Namibia, the Demographic Health Survey 2013 (DHS) notes that 31,5% of girls aged between 15 and 19 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and other research indicates that one fifth of all learners reported to have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse, one out of every 10-14 year-old has experienced one or more forms of sexual abuse.

Progress is generally uneven

Of the INSPIRE strategies, only access to schools through enrollment showed the most progress with 54% of countries reporting that a sufficient number of children in need were being reached in this way.

Between 32% to 37% of countries considered that victims of violence could access support services, while 26% of countries provided programmes on parent and caregiver support; 21% of countries had programmes to change harmful norms; and 15% of countries had modifications to provide safe physical environments for children.

Although majority of countries ( have national data on violence against children, only 21% used these to set baselines and national targets to prevent and respond to violence against children.  About 80% of countries have national plans of action and policies but only one fifth have plans that are fully funded or have measurable targets. A lack of funding combined with inadequate professional capacity are likely contributing factors and a reason why implementation has been slow.

Although Namibia, has put in place legislations such as the Child Care and Protection Act 3 of 2015, the Combating of Domestic Violence Act 4 of 2003 and the Combating of Rape Act 8 of 2000 to protect children particularly from violence, ho wever funding towards the implementation of this framework is still challenging.

“We applaud the Government of Namibia for its commitment in addressing violence against children,” said Charles Sagoe Moses, the WHO Representative to Namibia “However we need to ensure that these legislative instruments are backed by quantified baseline and target values against which to monitor their progress in ending violence against children.

The COVID-19 response and its impact on children

“During the COVID 19 pandemi c, and the related school closures, we have seen a rise in violence and hate online and this includes bullying. Now, as schools begin to re open, children are expressing their fears about going back to school,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that schools are safe environments for all children. We need to think and act collectively to stop violence at school and in our societies at large.”

Stay-at-home measures including school closures have limited the usual sources of support for families and individuals such as friends, extended family or professionals. This further erodes victims’ ability to successfully cope with crises and the new routines of daily life. Spikes in calls to helplines for child abuse and intimate partner violence have been observed.

“Our partnership with Lifeline ChildLine and the services they provide, has become more essential during this period. UNICEF will continue working with all partners to ensure that more vulnerable children and women benefit from integrated child protection and justice services. This also means increasing public awareness of violence and the devastating toll it takes on individuals and families.” said Rachel Odede, UNICEF’s Representative to Namibia.

And while online communities have become central to maintain many children’s learning, support and play, an increase in harmful online behaviours including cyberbullying, risky online behavior and sexual exploitation have been identified.

“Whilst this report was being finalized, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of already limited child protection services exacerbated the vulnerability of children to various forms of violence,” said Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence

against Children.

“To respond to this crisis a unified, child rights and multisectoral framework for action for children is critical requiring a strong mobilization of governments, bilateral/multilateral donors, civil society, private sector and children, whose views must be heard and truly taken into account to ensure duly protection and the possibility for all to thrive and reach their full potential.”

Accelerating action to protect children

WHO and its partners will continue to work with countries to fully implement the INSPIRE strategies by enhancing coordination, developing and implementing national action plans, prioritizing data collection, and strengthening legislative frameworks.

“Th is unprecedented situation seeks from all of us to come together, as partners to ensure continued and inclusive learning for all children and youth. Therefore our support to the Governme nt of Namibia is to strengthen national and local capacities to assure the remote provision of inclusive education in different contexts and through suitable alternative channels said Djaffar Moussa Elkadhum, UNESCO’s Representative to Namibia.

Global action is needed to ensure that the necessary financial and technical support is available to all countries. Monitoring and evaluation are crucial to determine the extent to which these prevention efforts are effectively delivered to all who need them.

“Ending violence against children is the right thing to do, a smart investment to make, and it’s possible. It is time to fully fund comprehensive national action plans that will keep children safe at home, at school, online and in their communities,” said Dr Howard Taylor, End Violence Partnership. “We can and must create a world where every child can thrive free from violence and become a new generation of adults to experience healthy and prosperous lives.”

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