Risk factors for children during the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 is quickly changing the context in which children live. Of concern is how the situation for children - for whom protection risks have already been identified - may worsen. In addition, new protection concerns will be emerging for other children. This might be due to a range of circumstances increasing children’s vulnerability. There may also be a need for social distancing, and total or partial lock-down leading to increased stress and violence within households and other places children are living. Other factors that may be impacting on children include:
- Closure of schools and other services, death of caregivers and other family members, and the inability to visit wider family and friends can result in children losing their usual support networks and not being able to reach people they would usually be able to report violence to and ask for help keeping them safe
- Death, hospitalisation, illness, and lack of usual coping mechanisms may reduce protection offered by a child’s ‘primary’ caregiver resulting in possible temporary relinquishment and being sent to stay with other family members, placement in alternative care, or becoming a child headed household. Please refer to the Terminology Document in the ‘Downloads’ section on course step 3 for a further explanation about ‘primary’ caregivers.
- Loss or restricted access to services and support for children in vulnerable situations such as those in street situations and children in alternative care - especially if separated or unaccompanied. Current circumstances may be putting them at higher risk of abuse, exploitation, arrest and detention, unsafe returns to their original homes, and preventing access to essential services
- Loss or restricted access to services and support for asylum-seeking children and refugee, stateless, migrant, and internally displaced (IDP) children. For the rest of the course we will refer to these children as ‘displaced’ children. It is important to please look at the Step 4 Definitions Document found in the ‘Downloads’ section at the bottom of the page, where you will find further information about the terminology we have used for these children.
Current circumstances can place them at higher risk of discrimination, closure of borders, stopping of asylum hearings and preventing access to essential services due to lack of legal documentation and other obstacles:
- Lack of access to livelihoods and other basic needs can increase risks of child marriage and child labour
- Increased psychosocial stress due to experiencing death or illness of parents, family members and other caregivers, friends, isolation, and stigma and discrimination of those infected, or thought to be infected with, COVID-19. Home schooling and other issues adding to the role and stress of caregivers during the pandemic can also impact on the protection and care of children
- Limited operation of national social protection and legal systems can interrupt any usual formal child protection decision-making processes and how to determine the best interests of a child when required
- Health services and disease control measures may not consider the gender-specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls which may in turn increase risks to their protection.
You may be interested in watching this recording of a webcast made by UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti where leading international experts speak about ‘Coronavirus and Children: Violence in the Home’.
Throughout the course we are going to explore ways we can work together through a case management approach to support children for whom there is an existing, or new, protection concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include guidance that is relevant for children in many different settings including those living at home in their own families as well as those not in the care of a usual primary caregiver as, for example, children in alternative care, displaced children, children in detention, and street connected children.
You can read more information about children who may be at risk in this publication issued by the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action in partnership with other organisations.
The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.