The best interest of the child in COVID-19 era
The COVID-19 situation compels us to sharpen our analysis as we reflect on Eswatini’s child justice system, considering how COVID-19 might have worsened the situation for children in contact with the justice delivery system.
The Government of the kingdom of Eswatini recognizes the month of June as the month of the child. This is an opportunity for the country to celebrate important milestones in the promotion of child rights and for all stakeholders to reflect on what remains to be done and most of all renew their promises to the children of Eswatini, despite the COVID-19 crisis and challenges.
COVID-19 is taking back major national milestones and compounding challenges that would have otherwise been manageable. The COVID-19 situation compels us to sharpen our analysis as we reflect on Eswatini’s child justice system, considering how COVID-19 might have worsened the situation for children in contact with the justice delivery system.
Officiating at the launch, the Deputy Prime Minister Senator Themba Masuku highlighted that positive parenting is part of an enabling environment for continued relationship with the child. “COVID -19 provides an opportunity for parents to spend more time with their children,”, emphasized Senator Masuku.
“COVID -19 provides an opportunity for parents to spend more time with their children.”
COVID-19 presents a great challenge in life history, this particularly affects children in very many fronts, including disruptions in delivery of services addressing issues that have been affecting children. “During this COVID-19 crisis, we must not lose sight of all these areas where children are being affected, because the effects could be grave leading to high negative impacts on children”, remarked UNICEF Representative Dr Alice Akunga at the launch of children’s month.
UNICEF’s Dr Akunga emphasized the need for ensuring that health services, including immunization continue undisrupted, education continues, and that children get adequate food and nutrition, access clean and safe water, and are not exposed to any form of abuse and harm, particularly during these COVID-19 crisis. Above all, children need to be protected against exposure and infection of COVID-19.
The theme for the Day of the African Child 2020 is "Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa" - appropriately localized to "Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Eswatini". This theme is a call for the African continent and Eswatini as a nation, to reflect on how accessible and child friendly its justice delivery system is. The theme provides us with an opportunity to do an honest introspection of how our justice delivery system interacts with children especially during this unprecedent time of COVID-19.
The Vice chairperson of the NGO children’s consortium, Dr Loretta Mkhonta noted that children need adequate information about their rights and roles in the justice process. “Children’s needs are unique and justice for children is urgent”, asserted Dr Mkhonta.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Senator Themba Masuku encouraged children to stay at home to avoid COVID -19 infection and report any form of abuse by calling toll free numbers 951, 9664 and 999. “Children staying at home does not mean children should be abused”, stressed Senator Masuku.