UNICEF Albania calls for urgent action to mitigate risks of violence against children during COVID-19 emergency
TIRANA, (9 April 2020) – UNICEF Albania echoes the statement issued by the leaders of child rights and child protection organizations on the 8 April 2020, and calls the Government of Albania, all public and non-public sector organizations, to urgently address child protection measures to help safeguard the welfare of thousands of children who may be more exposed to violence, exploitation, trafficking and sexual abuse during the COVID-19 emergency.
“In Albania, like almost everywhere in Europe and globally, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of child protection services exacerbate the vulnerability of children living in poverty, in temporary shelters, in residential care institutions, in so called “developmental centres” for children with disabilities, in penitentiary and immigration detention centres and other closed facilities, because cases of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children are likely to grow and go undetected.
The lockdown at home and elsewhere placed incredible burden also on parents and care givers, whose livelihood has been halted, and now they must look after children, the elderly, the household, while trying to make the economic ends meet. Moreover, the COVID-19 situation significantly impacted overall mental health and psychological well-being of everyone, adding up to other risks.
The loss of basic household income is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable children, and it makes them an easy prey for forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, and other adverse situations, with likely long-lasting effect and deep trauma.
The data coming from the international law enforcement organizations and watchdogs indicates that since COVID-19 pandemic there is a rapid increase in the numbers of cybercrimes, such as sexual grooming online, live streaming of child sexual abuse and the production and distribution of child sexual abuse material.
The situation is alarming and requires immediate mobilization of all available resources, political will, existing technical expertise and contribution from absolutely everyone in the country who is responsible for the wellbeing of our children and also those who care and can volunteer to support.
UNICEF, therefore, proposes the following 5 core areas for immediate strengthening:
- Child and social protection system work force must be recognized as a core workforce during COVID-19 emergency; they need to be granted sufficient resources and equipment, alongside the law enforcement and health care professionals, to be readily and swiftly available for children who are in danger so to deliver protection services regardless of quarantine and mobility restrictions.
- National child help line 116 111 and other remote (online or phone based) psychological counselling services must be supported to be able to operate 24/7 without interruption.
- Temporary shelters for victims of abuse or those at immediate and high risk, will have a life-saving role and therefore must be identified across the country, and must provide required quarantine facilities for the newcomers, if and when appropriate;
- Engagement of para-professional work force must be encouraged and facilitated to help the statutory work force (child protection workers and social workers) with additional reinforcement, otherwise the current protection system may be at risk of collapsing under the immense demand and challenges. The role of child rights and child protection NGOs is vital and decisive if coordinated and channeled purposefully, an opportunity which Albania can’t afford to miss.
- Children themselves must be empowered to participate actively in responding to this crisis, including through peer-to-peer initiatives online and using technology. That way, we will multiply the potential children carry themselves in addressing this unprecedented pandemic.
UNICEF Albania is already providing technical and financial support to state and non-state bodies across all 5 core areas of response and we intend to continue doing so as long as it is required. However, this is an appeal to everyone, because the challenges are way too big for any single entity to handle alone – we are all in this together, for every child! “
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/albania.