Together with five other child rights organizations, SOS Children's Villages had investigated the dangers for children during the pandemic in five African countries. Christian Neusser, child rights expert at SOS Children's Villages, says: "The result is clear: the increase in hunger, poverty and existential fears in families directly leads to violence against children also increasing and the risk of exploitation rising."
The study involved numerous interviews with children and young people, as well as surveys of children, parents and social workers, conducted between October 2020 and April 2021 in the countries of Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, for example, over 60 percent of children surveyed reported suffering from domestic violence. The reasons cited for the escalation were desperation and parents being overwhelmed by their precarious situation. At the same time, support services have been eliminated as a result of the lockdown, they said. "When schools and childcare facilities are closed, children can't get help and remain excluded from protective programs," Neusser explains.
The number of child laborers has also skyrocketed due to the pandemic, according to the study. In order to secure the livelihood of their families, children often perform hard physical and dangerous work, for example in agriculture or in mines, have to prostitute themselves or go begging.
The financial hardship of the poorest families as a result of the pandemic has also led to a significant increase in forced and early marriages, which endanger girls in particular. Male adolescents interviewed in one region of Mali said that all of the girls aged 13 to 18 they knew had been married off during the crisis.
"The study shows: For many children, life has become more insecure and dangerous," says Christian Neusser. For better protection against violence, he says, it is important to establish child protection systems in communities, to work preventively in the family environment, to raise awareness of children's rights with the help of education campaigns, and to support parents in their parenting.
A joint effort of: Child Fund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, Terre des Hommes, World Vision.