COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing vulnerabilities on children

14 March 2022
Children at assembly
UNICEF Botswana
Children at assembly

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives globally, creating a crisis that is unprecedented in its scale and scope. A growing body of evidence shows that both the virus itself, as well as the measures implemented by governments to contain its spread, disproportionately impacted children, and their families. 

At the beginning on the pandemic in 2020-2021, Botswana experienced a surge in cases of violence against children, especially sexual violence. “COVID-19 exacerbated pre-existing challenges. It is very clear that some of the abuse is perpetuated in homes, a place where children should be safe,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Joan Matji. The country recorded increase of rape cases of children from 474 to 734 with the youngest victim being a two-year-old, defilement cases increased from 1825 to 2033, while violence cases grew from 134 to 238 during the same period. “Some of the measures put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19, such as lockdowns and school closure, disrupted the children’s routine as well as their social support. Some children were left unattended for lengthy periods of time, making them more vulnerable to all forms of abuse,” she added.

Access to health services was equally affected, with the routine immunization rate for children under 1 year dropping from 90 per cent to 47.5 per cent for all antigens for the same age group in 2021. “COVID-19 put a considerable strain on the health system, necessitating prioritization now to focus on continuity of essential and routine services such as ASRH and HIV services and building a more resilient system,” said Dr. Matji. The pandemic has also affected the education system in particular, about 26,000 learners enrolled in the Early Childhood Education programme missed two thirds of learning time in the first year of COVID- 19. Learners with disabilities bore a double burden as the school closure resulted in them missing two thirds of learning time in the first year of COVID-19.  

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back year of progress in protection and promotion of children’s rights, leaving children deprived of essential services and families struggling. Therefore, it is imperative to take concerted action to build resilient systems to protect children and their families from any future shocks. 

Media contacts

Tuduetso Kelapile
Head of External Communications and Advocacy
UNICEF Botswana
Tel: 3951909 (Ext. 102)


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