Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates have given a voice to children growing up in adverse conditions worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, and fear an increase in child exploitation and abuse. They issued a joint statement to governments across the world for the protection of children during this time.
Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in our world. The virus, the restrictions placed on the majority of the world’s population and the aftermath will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable,” they said. The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation has applauded fellow laureate Kailash Satyarthi for uniting world leaders in support of children.
Piyushi Kotecha, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “In times of hardship and struggle, the most vulnerable members of society often paid the highest price.
Children are said by the scientists to generally develop less severe Covid-19 symptoms than adults; however, bold steps are necessary to prevent them from shouldering the most severe burdens (socially, emotionally and in disrupted education) as a consequence of the pandemic.
Kotecha said those living in poverty were often forced into child labour, and something as devastating as a pandemic increased the level of poverty, hunger and exploitation for the most vulnerable in society.
Ilitha Labantu spokesperson Siya Monakali said: “A collective effort is required in order to ensure the safety of our children. It’s not the government’s responsibility alone, but the whole of society needs to play a role. The Covid-19 pandemic is one that has brought about heightened levels of anxiety, particularly rooted within the private domain and the family. These anxieties are fuelled by economic pressure.
Monakali said children were most exposed to violence and abuse in the home and close community during this time and this could have lasting negative psychological effects on their development.
“In the implementation of the national lockdown, there seems to have been a grey area as to how the government will offer assistance to survivors of violence and abuse, as most places of safety were either closed or lacked the necessary personal protective equipment,” he said. Kotecha added: “The lockdown will already have had a profound effect on all children, particularly those who live in crowded and poorly resourced communities such as informal settlements.
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