Beyond the Fear of COVID-19, the Commitment to Protect Children and Adolescents

Child protection counselors work tirelessly on the front line of response during the pandemic.

Sendai Zea, UNICEF Venezuela Communications Officer
Las consejeras de protección, Nancy y María José brindan atención psicológica y entrevistan a un niño y niña que junto a su representante se han acercado al Consejo de Protección para solicitar apoyo en conciliación de conflicto intrafamiliar
©UNICEF Venezuela/2020/Poveda
04 March 2021

Nancy and María José are two protection advisers from Táchira, whom the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped in their quest to support the most vulnerable children and adolescents.

On a daily basis, they take tours of the communities to attend to cases that require psychosocial support, legal guidance, or any support necessary to restore the violated rights of children and adolescents.

"Due to the situation of COVID-19 we are more active than ever, 24 hours a day," says María José, counselor for child protection attached to the Council for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, where she has been working for a year and a half.

"Children have been the object of a discharge from the frustration and stress of adults, as a result of the situation of the pandemic, which involves father, mother, and relatives living together 24 hours a day, in addition to the pre-existing situation in the country", adds.

The closure of schools and other social distancing measures that interrupt daily routines, the stressful situation in parents, who may be struggling with a loss of income, added to anxiety and uncertainty, increase the risks of abuse and violence.

“This pandemic is an atypical situation. Since it began, we began to receive more cases of domestic violence than had been reported to us before, as a result of the compulsory coexistence of parents with their children, "says Nancy Ibarra, who has been a counselor for the protection of children for five years. and teenagers.

"In addition, with the installation of Comprehensive Social Care Points on the border, we had to adapt to provide care for returned children and adolescents, and children in street situations," he adds.

From a border community in Venezuela, Nancy and María José attend approximately 6 daily cases of children, adolescents, or families that require psychological guidance, support, and legal advice.

Despite the risks of contracting the virus, Nancy and María José work even outside their normal hours and are not stopped or the mobility restrictions posed by the pandemic.

"Our work is located in low-income areas, where protection is minimal, or in health centers where there are patients with the virus (...) We recently had the case of a 16-year-old pregnant woman who approached the Council to request a place to sleep. She had been a victim of trafficking in Colombia, crossed the border through the trails, and did not know if she had the disease. So yes, we are afraid of contracting the disease, we are human beings, but it's my job, ”says Nancy.

Consejera de protección de la infancia realiza una entrevista en las instalaciones de un Consejo de Protección en el estado Táchira
UNICEF Venezuela/2020/Poveda
For five years, Nancy has provided support from the offices of the Council for the Protection of Children and Adolescents in Táchira or in the communities to children and adolescents whose rights are being violated.
Una persona es atendida en el Consejo de Protección de los niños, niñas y adolescentes en Táchira
UNICEF Venezuela/2020/Poveda
María José has been walking every day for more than a year and a half to get to her workplace in the Council for the Protection of Children and Adolescents and to the communities to provide the protection service for the children and adolescents who most need it.

“I have a three-year-old daughter and I also live with my father who is hypertensive. I also feel afraid when I leave the house because by exposing myself I also expose them; however, I continue to work because I love my job as a counselor. We try to take all measures to protect ourselves and minimize risks. But the fear of infecting us is always present ”, adds María José.

To accompany the efforts of child protection personnel during the pandemic, UNICEF has reinforced its response with a team of specialists who work in the field with local and regional governments, civil society, and institutions.

Through our specialists in Caracas, Táchira, Zulia, and Bolívar we have contributed, together with the Councils for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, to the attention of cases through telephone lines of legal and psychological advice in some sectors.

“UNICEF has been working hand in hand with us, with professional training, office supplies, and now with improving the infrastructure. Having adequate workspaces, with good lighting, is an incentive that encourages us to continue working and this work also translates into improvements for the attention of users. Also thanks to the multidisciplinary team provided by UNICEF, we have been able to provide face-to-face psychological support ”, concludes Nancy.