International Day of the African Child: Child rights must not be undermined during the times of COVID-19

The day is used to highlight the current situation and rights of the African child to quality education and a better life.

16 June 2020
Girls smiling at camera
UNICEF/UNI235897/Noorani

KHARTOUM, 16 June 2020 – The pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 has left boys and girls across Sudan further exposed to risk of violation, abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect due to early closure of schools and lockdown measures in place. Girls are at an increased risk of female genital mutilation, early marriages, disruption of Education, and deaths from easily preventable diseases, according to Save the Children, UNICEF, Plan International and World Vision.

The 16th of June every year is an opportunity to commemorate progress the African continent has achieved to realize children rights, and also to highlight the challenges to achieve these rights. This year the African continent is facing a new and unique challenge: COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse progress made for children in Africa by years or even decades. Economic aftershocks risk pushing an additional 33 million children into poverty.

As multi-mandated, child-focused organizations, we have serious concerns about the immediate and long-term impact COVID-19 and ongoing response measures may have on the health and well-being of children, especially those most vulnerable, in both stable and fragile or conflict-affected contexts.
Our five overarching concerns for children are:

  • Deteriorating physical and mental health
  • Lack of access to basic health services; 
  • Unprecedented challenges for provision of humanitarian assistance to children;
  • Increased child protection risks including Access to justice for children.;
  • Disruption to education; and
  • Lost family income and livelihoods and resultant food insecurity.

In Sudan, due to the precautionary measure, according to the Ministry of Education, the school closure impacted the education of more than 8.1 million students, besides the 3.6 million children already out of school. Prolonged closure of schools will impact an estimated 2 million children who depend on school meals as part of their food security.

Routine immunizations, antenatal care and other sexual and reproductive healthcare services - that prevent children from dying of preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea or pneumonia - have been disrupted or deprioritized due to lack of human resources, medical supplies or physical distancing measures required in managing COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, the pandemic led to increased food insecurity and malnutrition, exacerbating the already dire situation, where country’s malnutrition levels and inflation rate are among the highest in Africa. Most of the population work in the informal sector, the restriction of movement has resulted in loss of revenues and surge in the prices of basic commodities. Vulnerable children, including street children, face higher health risks and are now more likely to come into direct confrontation with the law, as the movement restrictions do not take into account their special needs. Finally, there is growing evidence that girls may suffer increased practice of FGM, child marriage and domestic violence, because they are out of school, confined and facing higher poverty due to the pandemic response measures.

The impact of COVID-19 on children is expected to continue for months and even years, therefore the rights of children must not be undermined. We call on government, donors and stakeholders to:

  • Ensure continuous routine healthcare, notably vaccination campaigns, maternal and infant/young child healthcare.
  • Invest in innovative and low-cost solutions to guarantee the continuation of education (such as community radio programs, etc.).
  • Integrate the most vulnerable children, including street children, refugees, IDPs, children outside of family care, and children with disabilities in all response plans and provide them legal protection.
  • Recognizing that girls face a disproportionate burden and are exposed to higher risks during the crisis, ensure specific response to prevent and address abuse and gender-based violence.
  • Develop and implement concrete and effective social protection mechanisms and policies to protect children and families from future pandemics and other shocks.

Save the Children, UNICEF, Plan International, World Vision and others are responding to CoVID-19 outbreak through provision of appropriate alternative care arrangements for children without parental or family; mental health and psychosocial support to children, parents and primary caregivers; capacity building of personnel and partners on GBV risk mitigation and referrals for survivors, including for sexual exploitation and abuse and promoting preventive measures to help limit the spread of the virus and protect children and their families. We provide food, cash and livelihoods assistance to the most vulnerable households. We also provide infection prevention and control through the support of isolation centers and health facilities across the country.

Media contacts

Fatma Naib
Chief of Communication & Advocacy
UNICEF Sudan

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child and is committed to the children of Sudan. We never give up on finding solutions that provide immediate help to save the lives of children or provide durable support so that those children grow up with dignity, health and an education.  

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

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