Stella Ayo-Odongo

The Coordinator of African Partnership to End Violence Against Children Stella Ayo-Odongo has called for strengthening of child protection during and after the unprecedented nature of Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the months the world witnessed the pandemic evolve rapidly, initially with governments instituting total lockdowns and travel restrictions, to partial easing of the restrictions and a slow return to normalcy in many countries. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people in Africa have been affected and the livelihoods of billions have been disrupted.

Speaking during the learning event organised by the Ministry of Labour Gender and Social Development (MGLSD), Stella said over 1.5 billion children are out of school causing unprecedented global learning crises; this resulted into the introduction of online learning for children that has potentially to increase the risk of exposure to online abuse (cyberbullying, risky online behavior and sexual exploitation). For some children this resulted in their exclusion because they lack access to internet services or the schools were not able to facilitate online learning.

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She said during this period, there have been heightened reports of violence against children (VAC), increase in teenage pregnancies, child marriage, sexual violence, inability to access child protection services and the list goes on.

“Covid-19 is likely to increase in number of children dropping out of the education system, heightened risk of online abuse,” She said adding that there is fear that many children may be deprived of care or be forced to play the role of caregivers to younger siblings when parents or caregivers become infected or die.

COVID-19 has not only severely affected health, education and other services in Africa, but it is also pushing millions into extreme poverty. According to UNECA estimates, up to 29 million Africans are expected to be pushed below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day owing to the impact of COVID-19. An estimated 42-66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis this year.