Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: Children's voices finally heard

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Narindra Ranaivoson Andriambala
Dessin à main levée
UNICEF Madagascar/2021/Francesca Viola
23 November 2021

The daily life of Mija and his family, as well as his hopes for the future, have been greatly impacted by COVID-19, which has not even really reached her village. “Life has changed because of COVID-19! We could no longer live freely! It was all over!”, said Mija.

In addition, his dream of one day becoming a soldier has been stifled: the cessation of classes for an uncertain and undefined period gave rise to the fear that he would no longer be able to obtain his diploma.

In addition, aid and other government measures such as the distribution of basic supplies could not cover the entire population of Mija’s village. According to him: “Only wealthy people like civil servants and their immediate families were able to benefit from it; ordinary citizens, no. Some even had to buy some from gendarmes”. Mija was unhappy and felt marginalized because his family did not benefit from these measures.

Children are not always considered as citizens who can express themselves on their rights and their needs in the face of various contexts and social policies in general, and those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular. Their voice is often not heard, their experiences and feelings are ignored or listened to passively, without any tangible consequences.

Qualitative research on children’s experiences during the COVID-19 period is an activity of the Social Policies section of UNICEF office in Madagascar which – as part of monitoring children's rights – is also within the framework of an international initiative coordinated by UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. Mija is a fictional character invented by boys aged 14-17 from a rural village in the Haute Matsiatra Region, during a group discussion organized for research. It was an opportunity for the authors of the Mija story to speak in depth for the first time about local facts, their feelings and their perception of health emergency periods relating to the pandemic. Their desires and frustrations have been listened to, and will join the voices of approximately 600 other children and young people in Madagascar, to serve as a basis for the authorities and UNICEF at the national but also at global level; they are meant for future policies or protection measures to put in place in relation to this pandemic which is still raging.

 

Dessin à main levée représentant un jeune garçon
UNICEF Madagascar/2021/Francesca Viola
This is the story of Mija, a fictional character invented by boys aged 14 to 17 from a rural village in the Haute Matsiatra region.
Dessin à main levée
UNICEF Madagascar/2021/Francesca Viola
Let's put a face to Mija