Children worry over lack of food and are concerned that their loved ones may get infected by the COVID-19 virus. This was revealed by consultations with children conducted by Save the Children Philippines last week on the impact of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines called on local government units to monitor the situation of children and address their needs and concerns amid the implementation of the ECQ.
“We call on the LGUs to ensure that children’s voices are heard to guide them in crafting effective measures and responses,” said Atty. Muyot, adding that: “Children’s rights must be of paramount concern because they are the most vulnerable groups along with older persons and persons with disabilities.”
Save the Children’s BURST (Building Urban Children’s Resilience Against Shocks and Threats of Resettlement) Project conducted the consultation using online platforms, SMS and phone calls with children aged 11-17 from informal communities in Pasay City and relocation sites in Naic, Cavite.
Children consulted said most people in their neighborhood complain about their situation, particularly issues about “where to get food, how to survive, and the uncertainty of not knowing when the enhanced quarantine will end.”
Missing out on school and prohibited from going out of the house, children feel disconnected with their friends, said Save the Children’s report on the consultation.
While at home, some children have to bear with extreme heat but cannot take a bath and maintain personal hygiene due to lack of water, the report added.
Distressed by circulating rumors and fake news, and the lack of information in their communities, the children are asking local officials to provide them accessible and child-friendly accurate information on what Covid-19 is, why the quarantine is being done, how the government is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can protect themselves, and other children in their communities.
Relief goods being given to their families are not enough, according to the children, stressing they also need medicines and vegetables. Children also urged local leaders to provide them educational and leisure materials so they can continue learning and be productive during the quarantine.
Meanwhile, Atty. Muyot called on local leaders to ensure continuous delivery of basic services for children, including protection to prevent and address child abuse and exploitation while the quarantine is being implemented.
Most parents and guardians have to work from home, others face temporary loss of income while having to take care of children. “These uncertainties, coupled with stress have been challenging the capacity of parents for tolerance and may increase parental abuse and violence against children. Children’s increased use of the internet during the quarantine places them at higher risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation.”
Lourdes Pambid, Program Manager of BURST Project, said it is vital to engage children and their communities to understand first-hand how their lives have been affected by the crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of consultation will provide guidance in planning child-based programs through a needs assessment with children’s participation as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds in the Philippines.
She said the consultation integrated the advocacy on how children and their families can protect themselves against the spread of virus through awareness on personal hygiene, social distancing, cough etiquette and how to ensure public health and safety in times of emergencies.
Pambid said children and their families in Cavite and Pasay urgently need relief assistance including food, and hygiene kits, and livelihood opportunities for parents and guardians.
“Immediately, local leaders should ensure that relief assistance or child-sensitive cash transfers or vouchers are distributed to the poorest families to maintain their income sources and livelihood and, where possible, aligned with a longer-term government strategy on social protection,” said Pambid.