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30 June 2020 - News

Lobbies want welfare of all children given priority during crisis

By Milliceent Mwololo

Two rights groups want child welfare to receive priority during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and Joining Forces Alliance for Children, the umbrella body for children’s rights organisations in the country, have faulted the government for the lack of guidelines for handling violence against minors.

They single out increased cases of child abuse, sexual and gender based violence and lack of prioritisation of all children in vulnerable situations in the ongoing Covid-19 social protection humanitarian support.

“We reiterated that children’s rights must be at the centre of the Covid-19 response mechanisms,” said Dr Bernard Mogesa, the CEO at KNCHR.

The lobbies had put the government on notice before the Day of the African Child on June 16. Further, they have asked the government to enact the Children Bill 2019, whose delay continues to paint Kenya negatively in regard to its obligation to promote and protect children’s rights.

The lobbies also note lack of information and reports to the various actors and the public on measures in place to safeguard the wellbeing and welfare of children in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is also a lack of clear measures to enhance access to justice (both formal and informal systems) for children during this pandemic,” said Child Fund-Kenya director Chege Ngugi.

This, Mr Ngugi added, has resulted to a broken child justice chain link in handling of child protection cases for those who have been caught up in the justice process.

“Some of the children have not been able to access protection, medico-legal, psychosocial and pro bono services provided by both state and non-state actors,” he noted.

The alliance also noted that there is lack of proper guidance and general public awareness of measures put in place to prevent children against Covid-19 spread as well as mitigation programmes.

“Specifically, there remains a gap in measures put in place to handle Covid-19 child patients during isolation, quarantine mass testing exercise as well as the proposed home-based quarantine process,” said Ms Kate Maina-Vorley, the Plan International Kenya director.

Ms Vorley noted that weak co-ordination of child protection service providers at the national, county and community levels has resulted in low public sensitisation and unclear reporting and follow-up mechanisms for child rights violations within the communities.

She added lack of targeted support and involvement of child participation in the ongoing discussions and need to deal with the increasing anxiety and stress among children as they continue staying at home.

Further, the agencies have decried a lack of clear indicators on how to target and support the vulnerable children. “This includes children with disabilities, children living in the streets, victims of trafficking, intersex children and child migrants in the ongoing social protection programmes to cushion them from Covid-19 impact,” said Wang Le, country director, Save the Children Kenya.

This article was first published on the Daily Nation on June 28, 2020