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Let’s protect a generation

09 September 2020, Action for Change

COVID-19 is tearing apart childhoods

COVID-19 has badly disrupted our ways of life. And for children from more fragile states, it has torn their lives apart. A recent report titled, ‘Protect A Generation’ by Save the Children that surveyed over 25,000 children and parents has revealed children from poorest households across the globe have suffered greatest loss of family income, missed out most on education and faced the highest risk of violence at home.

These disruptions to society are having a devastating impact on children’s right to survive, learn and stay safe. The poorest children are being hit hardest. They are disproportionately missing out on access to education, healthcare, food and are suffering the greatest protection risks. All the gains the world has made in reducing poverty, increasing access to healthcare, and educating children could be lost if we don’t step up now. 

A right to education

Nowhere has the impact on children’s lives been more felt than the loss of education. In Yemen, 13-year-old Suhaib had already had his education interrupted once when his parents couldn’t afford to send him anymore. 

The hardest time I have ever been through was when I saw the other children going to school while I couldn’t. At that time, I used to hide behind the school and cry for not going

Suhaib

Save the Children supported Suhaib to re-enrol in school and provided him with a student kit and food package for his family. But now, he’s out of school again. Suhaib’s school has been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19, and no one is quite sure when it will re-open. 
    
“Now the school is closed and studying has stopped because of the COVID-19 outbreak. We wish that COVID-19 would be controlled so we can go back to school and study,” says Suhaib. 

Trying to heal in Bangladesh

The negative mental health effects of COVID-19 are also hitting children hard. 

School closures have limited children’s opportunities for important social interactions, while staying at home, fears of infection, family stress and financial loss have exacerbated stresses and worries. These effects may be most pronounced for children with pre-existing mental health problems.

For Amir*, the pandemic comes at the time when he’s only just beginning to recover from his traumatic journey to Bangladesh as a Rohingya refugee. 

“We suffered a lot when we were coming here from Myanmar,” his grandmother Dilda explains. “They were shooting at us from the hill. And because of this I lost my daughter. We still don’t know if she is dead or where she went or if she drowned in the canal.”

“My grandson was crying and said he wouldn’t go without his mother. After coming here (to Bangladesh) he was looking for his mother. We were settling in, but he was crying a lot. I told him I didn’t know where his mother was. I couldn’t tell him the Burmese [soldiers] had killed his mother or he would freak out.”


Amir started attending the Child Friendly Spaces in the Cox’s Bazar camp, and was starting to interact with the other children. “I used to be scared but I don’t feel fear like I used to,” he says. “I love going to the Child Friendly Space. I play with my friends, make paper flowers, then play Carrom Board and Ludo. I made paper flowers, then coloured them and decorated the walls with them. I love making people laugh. I also love to talk with people.”

With the Child Friendly Space now closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the camp, Amir is receiving home visits from a dedicated case manager, Nazmul. But Nazmul is fearful Amir’s isolation could bring back his depression. 

At first, when I went to him for follow-up and to try to speak with him, he only told me two things repeatedly, firstly, that he wanted his parents back. And secondly, he wanted to return back to Myanmar. Whenever I went for follow-up, he repeated these two lines to me.

Nazmul


Amir* with his case manager Nazmul. Photo: Sonali Chakma / Save the Children 

 

For children like Suhaib and Amir, the effects of this disruption will last years. To protect them and an entire generation of children from bearing the brunt of this pandemic for decades to come, the world needs to urgently step up to ensure children have access to distance learning and, after lockdowns lift, to quality, inclusive education. Governments must ensure children and their families, especially the most vulnerable, have access to nutritious food, healthcare and protection services.  

The impact on children will be devastating, as will be the long-term legacy of the pandemic, unless action is taken now

Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children Australia knows more is needed, especially for Australia’s neighbours:

While Australia has responded to the global COVID-19 crisis by deploying health experts, providing PPE and medical supplies, and providing financial support to Pacific Islands governments, it has not matched by the type of vision and action needed from Australia. COVID-19 doesn’t respect borders or boundaries. That’s why we must End COVID For All.

Paul Ronalds

By coming together, we can protect a generation of children during the crisis, and build back better for them and future generations. One thing you can do to show your support, is to sign the pledge to End COVID for All. Because this crisis won’t be over, until it is over for everyone. 

*Name has been changed

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