Global Annual Results Report 2020: Goal Area 3
Ensuring that every child is protected from violence and exploitation
The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a global crisis that has been unprecedented in both the universality of its scope and the inequality of its impacts.
Every child is protected from violence and exploitation
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threatens to reverse years of development gains and further inhibit progress towards protection-related SDGs by 2030. Though the full impact of the pandemic on children’s exposure to violence and exploitation is still emerging, at its peak, around 1.8 billion children lived in the 104 countries where violence prevention and response services were disrupted.
As much as COVID-19 setback progress on children’s rights, it also provided opportunities to elevate child protection issues, including such “hidden” issues as mental health, violence against women and girls and children without family care.
Child protection links to the SDGs and Convention on the Rights of the Child
Goal Area 3 aims to ensure that every girl and boy is protected from all forms of violence, exploitation, abuse and harmful practices. This commitment is anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and contributes to the achievement of protection-related Sustainable Development Goals.
Strengthening child protection systems to reduce violence against children
4.2 million children
who experienced violence reached with related services (126 countries) + 54%
2.6 million parents and caregivers
reached with UNICEF-supported parent education programmes (87 countries) + 14%
are committed to coordinating national responses to online child sexual exploitation and abuse (+8 countries)
Accelerating national progress to reduce all forms of violence
Across 144 countries, UNICEF sought to maintain the continuity of its programmes and operations, while pivoting, adapting, and innovating approaches to reach an unprecedented number of children with prevention and responses services.
This included leveraging digital technology to offer caregiving resources to parents, expand the reach of mental health and wellbeing messages; facilitate the link between children and social workers through innovative case management processes; expand the availability of coaching and supervision for caseworkers through improved remote and online solutions; add a teleservices tier, such as helplines with the potential to expand service provision post-COVID-19; engage communities in new ways of communicating; and ensure safety in online learning following widespread school closures.
I want to be there for that one child who thinks no one will believe her
In a safe space, children begin to reimagine the world
In Jordan, the pandemic reinforced the value of the Makani programme, particularly when it came to engaging the most vulnerable children in the extraordinary circumstances of prolonged lockdown and restricted movement. Through a network of 141 Makani centers, UNICEF reached over 115,000 children with an integrated package of protection services alongside providing support and resources to parents and caregivers through innovative community-based WhatsApp messaging groups.
Strengthening the social service workforce
At the start of the pandemic, child protection services, and the implicit role social service workers play in delivering these services, were not considered essential by many governments and received limited earmarked funds, making it difficult to support their continuity. UNICEF swiftly advocated for the social service workforce to be supported and recognized as an essential workforce during the COVID-19 response.
UNICEF supported over 143 countries to strengthen aspects of their social service workforce, with significant investment placed on addressing the unique challenges brought on by COVID-19. Through the innovative use of online platforms, UNICEF support across 23 countries enabled the training of at least 30,700 social service workers with specialized knowledge and skills to deliver essential services during COVID-19.
Strengthening information management systems
UNICEF recognizes integrated Information Management Systems (IMS) as a critical component of strengthening child protection systems. In 2020, UNICEF supported 111 countries to strengthen IMS for child protection, including 24 countries reporting an interoperable IMS to support and track case management and incident and programme monitoring in place.
Primero - A digital public good for social services
COVID-19 underscored the importance of IMS solutions to facilitate case management and supervision. Primero is an innovative inter-agency initiative currently being used in 37 countries supporting a caseload managed by more than 4,100 social service workers, an increase of more than 22 per cent compared with 2019.
Child protection in humanitarian action
47.2 million children, adolescents, parents and caregivers
accessed mental health and psychosocial support (117 countries)
17.8 million women, girls and boys
provided with risk mitigation, prevention or response interventions to address gender-based violence (84 countries)
44.3 million children and adults
could access safe and accessible UNICEF-supported sexual exploitation and abuse reporting channels
74 per cent
of unaccompanied and separated children targeted received Family Tracing and Unification services and alternative care (137,000) (75 countries)
In 2020, UNICEF activated an urgent and massive scale-up on all fronts to address the magnitude of humanitarian need, including protracted conflicts, natural disasters and new emergencies, and the compounding effects of COVID-19. UNICEF’s humanitarian child protection activities expanded to 145 countries (from 74 countries in 2019). Throughout the year, UNICEF continued to balance programme and operational continuity with the urgent need to adapt and innovate in the face of an ever-evolving global emergency. UNICEF also identified new advocacy and programming opportunities to keep the most vulnerable children safe and protected.
Young volunteers bring joy and information to children
In the war-ravaged village of Teir-Ma’aleh in Syria at a UNICEF-supported child friendly space, a team of young volunteers have taken it upon themselves to bring back happiness to the children in the village through stories, songs and fun activities.
Mental health and psychosocial support
COVID-19 has both exacerbated the mental health burden affecting the world’s children and brought much-needed attention to mental health as an essential component of children’s well-being and development. In 2020, UNICEF expanded its reach across humanitarian and development contexts, providing critical community-based mental health and psychosocial support. This included providing support through safe spaces, peer to peer support activities, positive parenting skills activities, focussed- and non-focussed mental health services and targeted community awareness campaigns. Additional, significant efforts were made to expand the reach of mental health-related mass communications outreach campaigns.
My Hero is You: Helping kids fight COVID-19
My Hero is You is a collaborative story book to help children understand and come to terms with COVID-19, aimed primarily at children aged 6–11 years old. During the early stages of the project, more than 1,700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world shared how they were coping during the pandemic. Since its release, My Hero is You has been translated into over 125 languages, including braille and sign language.
Gender-based violence in emergencies
COVID-19 quarantine and confinement measures and the ripple effect of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic increased the risks of gender-based violence (GBV) and worsened its severity, particularly for women and girls already at heightened risk of living in emergency and prolonged crisis contexts.
UNICEF galvanized the production of global resources, provided technical leadership and led coordinated action, to reach 17.8 million women, girls and boys with GBV risk mitigation, response and prevention programmes in 84 countries in 2020, compared to the 3.3 million reached in 2019 across 46 countries.
Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse
UNICEF has accelerated the scale up of protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA), with 91 countries now having safe and accessible reporting channels for SEA, country action plans, PSEA training for partners and strengthened referral pathways for survivors. In 2020, 44.3 million children and adults could access safe and accessible UNICEF-supported SEA reporting channels, a nearly fivefold increase from the 8.9 million children and adults with access in 2019.
Monitoring grave violations
UNICEF engages with the United Nations and partners to monitor and report grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict including killing and maiming; recruitment and use; abduction; and sexual violence. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism documented over 26,000 grave violations across 21 countries in 2020. The number of children affected by at least one grave violation totalled 19,000 (26 per cent girls).
Children associated with armed forces and armed groups
Reintegration is a long-term process intended to enable children to transition from armed forces and groups to their families and communities. Despite access constraints caused by COVID-19, UNICEF documented around 12,790 children who exited armed forces or armed groups in 16 countries during 2020. Across 19 countries, UNICEF provided a range of care and services including specialized family tracing, psychosocial support, recreational activities and economic reintegration, education and life-skills training to more than 12,360 children (23 per cent girls) who had exited armed forces or armed groups over the course of several years.
Mine action and explosive weapons
In the context of COVID-19, it proved crucial to adapt and reimagine how mine action programming, in particular Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE), was delivered in situations where face to face direct contact shifted to remote reach. This included the use of mass messaging through traditional and social media, and other forms of digital engagement to compensate the lack of in-person reach. A key programming constraint encountered was the difficulty in capturing the ‘indirect’ reach of these newly formulated modalities. This resulted in fewer children reached in 2020 compared with 2019.
In 2020, UNICEF reached almost 2.7 million children with EORE in 20 countries - a significant drop of 38 per cent compared with 2019, primarily caused by national COVID-19 regulations preventing ‘direct’ face-to-face activities in several countries.
Unaccompanied and separated children
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the measures and policies put in place to contain the virus, heightened the risks of separation of children across humanitarian situations and development contexts, triggering a significant scale-up in programming in 2020. UNICEF and partners supported UASC in 89 countries, across humanitarian situations and development contexts impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF and partners provided nearly 137,000 children with family tracing and reunification services and alternative care across 75 countries, a 163 per cent increase from 2019.
Delivery of protection services to reduce harmful practices
Over 16.4 million people
engaged through UNICEF-supported education, communication and social mobilization platforms to promote the elimination of FGM (20 countries)
Over 6 million adolescent girls
were reached with UNICEF-supported child marriage prevention and care interventions (45 countries)
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated key factors that put children at risk of harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. UNICEF and partners focused on adapting and innovating programming to ensure programme continuity, especially for the most at-risk and vulnerable girls – including girls with disabilities. Community-based interventions – a critical approach to address harmful practices – were significantly impacted, leading UNICEF to new and increased uses of communication technology to reach people with prevention and care services.
In 2020, UNICEF and partners supported 59 countries across all regions to implement rights-based interventions aimed at ending child marriage, adapting and innovating its approach in the context of COVID-19. Across 45 countries, around 5.3 million adolescent girls participated in life skills training or comprehensive sexuality education. Approximately 767,000 girls (aged 10–19) were supported by education programmes – including conditional cash transfers, bursaries, stipends, and scholarships – to enrol and/or remain in primary or secondary school. Across 12 priority countries, UNICEF and partners supported 3,276 service delivery points (health, including sexual and reproductive health, GBV and child protection) to improve access to services for adolescent girls.
Coping with COVID through the eyes of adolescent girls
UNICEF released a first-of-its-kind video series, ‘Coping with COVID-19’, on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Armed only with mobile phones, 16 girls from nine countries filmed their stories of living through COVID-19 – documenting how they coped with the fears of child marriage, the struggles of distance learning, and the burden of isolation. The series recorded over 6.7 million views across UNICEF’s global channels and was one of the most visited webpages of UNICEF during 2020.
Female Genital Mutilation
UNICEF contributed to important successes to eliminate FGM in 20 countries. To adjust programming due to COVID-19, focus was placed on scaling up proven interventions and adapting approaches to community-based interventions. UNICEF empowered around 2,156 communities in 14 countries to declare the abandonment of FGM and helped prevent around 120,600 girls from undergoing FGM through strengthening community-led surveillance structures. Digital information technologies and social media platforms became critical means of communication.
UNICEF Egypt launches #ProtectHerFromFGM campaign to stop female genital mutilation
In Egypt, the National Council for Women, National Commitee for the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation, civil society, and the Joint Programme successfully reached almost 23.2 million people through a multi-media campaign titled #احميها_من_الختان /#ProtectHerFromFGM. The campaign included community education sessions, a door-to-door campaign, interactive theatre, and TV/radio spots including two Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
Promoting access to justice for children
in 87 countries who were in contact with the law received services (277,700 in 65 countries in 2019)
21.2 million births
were registered (57 countries) and 15.1 million birth certificates were issued (51 countries)
Over 711,000 children
without parental or family care were provided with appropriate alternative care arrangements (87 countries)
1.8 million children on the move
were provided with protective services (74 countries)
Children’s access to justice is central to ensuring protection from violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and harmful practices. It also ensures that their rights are respected when they come into contact with the law as alleged offenders, survivors of, and witnesses to, violations, or as an interested party in care and custody proceedings. In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights norms and standards, children’s access to justice is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Strengthening justice systems
UNICEF and partners supported 125 countries to ensure programme continuity and to mitigate the increased risks for children and adolescents in contact with the law. A major focus was on adapting advocacy and programming to address the immediate and wider impact of COVID-19 while balancing longer-term justice reforms. When the pandemic began, UNICEF was among one of the first agencies to approach governments about the rights of children in the justice system, particularly children in detention.
UNICEF led an unprecedented global call for the immediate and safe release of children from detention. These efforts contributed to the release of over 11,600 children and young people across at least 37 countries.
How adopting ‘diversion measures’ has helped Kosovo deal compassionately with juvenile justice cases
Urim, 15 years old, was arrested for stealing a sweater from a store. His case was diverted from criminal proceedings. UNICEF has played a major role in expanding the use of diversion measures in Kosovo, developing legislation and conducting training for prosecutors, judges, lawyers, probation officers and other professionals involved in justice for children.
Improving birth registration
The impact of COVID-19 prevention and containment measures was immediate, severely disrupting the availability of civil registration services, including birth registration. At the height of the pandemic, over 40 countries noted drops of 10 per cent or more in related services.
To minimize the impact of service disruption and maintain a continuity of service provision and access (especially for birth registration services), UNICEF, together with partners, supported 74 countries in 2020 to adapt policies, procedures and protocols to address actual (and anticipated) service interruptions.
Supporting birth registration services
Amini Hassaina holds the birth certificates for her twin children issued at a Primary Health Center in Bauchi, Nigeria. UNICEF supports countries to ‘twin’ their birth registration services with other sectors’ systems, such as health, to facilitate improved access to birth registration services.
Children without parental care
UNICEF supported efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and pre-emptively scale up and strengthen the capacity of family-based care and social protection systems, which are critical to enhance family resilience and prevent the unnecessary separation of children from their families.
A critical first step for UNICEF was to advocate for the classification of alternative care services as ‘essential’ within governments’ COVID-19 response and management plans. Throughout 2020, UNICEF supported 109 countries to strengthen alternative care options for children without parental care.
Children on the move
Children on the move are especially vulnerable and face heightened protection risks, particularly in the context of COVID-19. They may be denied entry at borders, subjected to immigration detention, refused the right to seek asylum, excluded from access to essential services or returned without due process considerations. COVID-19 caused widespread border closures and forced returns.
In response, UNICEF focused on strengthening capacities to ensure there were adequate best interest determination procedures to support children. Where there were access limitations, UNICEF and partners pivoted their approach to provide remote assistance as well as adapted case management and psychosocial support modalities. Support and training, including the provision of PPE, and hygiene and other essential supplies, were also provided for social service workers to continue delivering protection services.
Advancing the Learning Agenda
UNICEF continued to support efforts to improve the availability and quality of child protection data and evidence, with a focus on strengthening data monitoring in the context of the child protection SDGs.
Early in the pandemic, the Goal Area 3 network highlighted the importance of learning lessons from previous infectious diseases, such as Ebola in West Africa to proactively gather evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on child protection. A ‘learning agenda’ was defined to gather timely, impactful – and ethical – situation, research and performance management data throughout 2020.
UNICEF, together with partners, produced more than 320 knowledge products across the spectrum of child protection issues at global, regional and country levels – a more than 50 per cent increase compared with 2019. Products were produced covering all key thematic areas of child protection and are being used to advocate for improved policy and programming at all levels. Around 60 per cent of all products were produced at the headquarters level, with the remainder tailored to regional (10 per cent) and national contexts (30 per cent) – more than a third of these products (38 per cent) were COVID-19 related.
Since the start of the pandemic, UNICEF began monitoring – in real time – selected COVID-19 protection-related indicators in over 122 countries. A dashboard to track the situation for children in the context of COVID-19 was established which provides quarterly updates of recent data collection efforts from across UNICEF country offices. For child protection, the dashboard has served as a critical tool to determine the change in coverage of child protection services during COVID-19.
Prior to the pandemic, UNICEF already had an ambitious agenda for organizational change in support of accelerated action for children – with a focus on prevention, innovation and scale up. The impact of COVID-19 increases the urgency to speed up action for children. UNICEF will capture the lessons learned from the past year, embrace the opportunities it presented and leverage the programming ingenuity it has inspired as a positive force towards acceleration.
These strategic and programmatic shifts are captured in UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy 2021-2030 that will guide UNICEF’s contribution toward realizing the rights of children during the Decade of Action and beyond.
...the challenge of the pandemic is matched with a unique opportunity to take what we have learned, and adapt UNICEF for the future, and to emerge stronger from the time of COVID for millions and millions of children and young people.
This report highlights the achievements made possible by the generous contributions of softly earmarked thematic funding received from various partners. UNICEF would like to express it's sincere appreciation for these contributions.
COVID-19 began as a global public health emergency but evolved rapidly into a child rights crisis that is unprecedented in both the universality of its scope and the inequality of its impacts. Children and women across countries and contexts faced increasing and intensifying threats to their safety and wellbeing – including abuse, violence, exploitation, neglect and separation from caregivers.
UNICEF worked in over 154 countries in 2020 to protect children against violence and exploitation, particularly in the context of COVID-19 with an investment of nearly US$712 million, including $393 million for humanitarian action in 145 offices, and reached 54 per cent more children who experienced violence with health, social work or justice and law enforcement services, compared to 2019.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 3 in 2020 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities in which they live.