UNICEF, UNDP, Red Cross partner to bolster child protection

The three organisations say the terror for children increases when in lockdown because they are confined to homes with adults who experience intense stress as they become increasingly impecunious


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Botswana Red Cross Society this week entered into a tripartite partnership to curb surging cases of violence against children in Botswana during COVID-19.

According to the Acting Representative of UNICEF in Botswana, Sarah Ng’inja, the three will engage communities nationwide to prevent any form of abuse and to encourage people to report such cases to relevant authorities. Ng’inja was speaking at the launch of the partnership in Gaborone yesterday (Tuesday).

“In the long run, parents and caregivers will be equipped to discuss issues of abuse, and in particular sexual exploitation and violence, in an age-appropriate manner,” Ng’inja said. “Furthermore, parents and caregivers or even others in the community will be empowered to report suspected cases.”

She said they have realised that some people take advantage of the lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19 and abuse children. “For most children, home represents a source of security and safety,” she noted. “But for others, the opposite is true. Children often bear witness to domestic violence. These acts of violence get worse when families are confined at home and when adults experience intense stress and anxiety. Lockdown also presents an opportunity for child abusers to harm children. And because children are stuck at home, they are rarely in a position either to escape or to report such acts.”

Since the first lockdown in April, the Botswana Police Service (BPS) has registered 56 defilement cases and 26 rape cases. “These figures might have increased,” Ngi’nja said. “The statistics are startling, especially when the majority of suspects are said to be close family members. It is a sad situation that calls for a collective effort to protect children.”

The Acting UNICEF Representative also noted the increasing cases of COVID-19, saying they risk burdening the health system and compromise access to critical health services for children. Over the past two weeks, she added, over 800 children were put into quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19. “More than that, however, the outbreak has seen an increasing number of children experiencing the secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “It has increased the number of children living in monetary poor households. As you know, immediate loss of income for households means that some families are less able to afford the basic needs of their children.”

Meanwhile, UNICEF used the partnership launch to donate 70 560 hand washing soaps to Botswana Red Cross Society to complement the call for increased hand washing as a measure to prevent infection with COVID-19.