Over 100 children across East Asia urged governments, civil society, and the private sector to take urgent action to scale-up social protection interventions that are child-sensitive, gender-responsive, and accountable.
The child participants convened with government officials to discuss the increased instances of child violence experienced during Covid-19 at World Vision's Asia Pacific Child Well-Being Learning Exchange forum yesterday, says a World Vision press release.
Social protection measures should provide the most vulnerable families with immediate access to food, cash and voucher assistance, and livelihood opportunities through labour market interventions, it reads.
The virtual event, organised in partnership with Unicef East Asia and Pacific, was introduced to bring together government, UN agencies, donors, civil society organizations, corporates, academia, subject experts, and thought leaders in the development sector to throw light on pressing issues the world's most vulnerable children are facing and their well-being in the Asia Pacific.
The child-focused "Let Our Voice be Heard" event also saw representation from the Government of Thailand, Laos PDR, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia, Unicef and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).
Child leaders highlighted the disconcerting increase in violence towards children, wide gaps in access to essential services, especially child protection and appealed to the Asian leaders to fulfil their commitment to making sure every child has every right, as per the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A qualitative interview-based child and youth consultation, Act Now, conducted across 10 Asian countries further reveals that 44% of girls and boys reported an increase in violence at home, and one in two children interviewed shared an increase in child marriage in their communities. They also divulged that the lockdown makes it easier to keep- child marriages from the public eye.
According to the Unmasking Report,a compilation of the Covid-19 early recovery assessment findings and recommendations by World Vision, loss of livelihood during Covid-19 has forced parents and caregivers to take desperate measures that are negatively impacting children's well-being, including inflicting violence on their wards. In addition, a higher proportion of girls revealed that they feel more unsafe during lockdowns
The report indicated, 10% of caregivers were sending their children to work and 9% of the householdswere sending children to beg or for high-risk jobs.
The pandemic is also pushing children out of school, with girls being the more vulnerable group. In the region, 15 million girls were already out of school before the pandemic. An additional1.2 million girls (from pre-primary to upper secondary) may not have access to school or drop out next year.
In a recent Rapid Impact Assessment report conducted by World Vision Bangladesh showed that about 95% households' income in the country have been impacted with an estimated 78.3% households' income decreased due to close of business/daily work.
Due to social and economic disruptions caused by immediate effects of Covid-19, Children, particularly those living in the most vulnerable rural and urban areas were at increased risk of both physical and mental health challenges
During the event, child representatives shared examples of best practices to stop the spread of Covid-19, how to navigate complex home environments, and help other vulnerable people in their communities.These included life skills to accept change and adapt to the 'New Normal' way of life to survive, self-defense training as protection from violence, and activities that extendhelp to other less fortunate people in the community.
Covid-19 was a wake-up call to sensitise both children and their families about the importance of saving money and building resilience.
The child representatives also expressed their strong desire to be part of their countries' Covid-19 recovery decision-making processes to ensure that child well-being aspirations are met.
"Children and young people's rights to meaningful participation is an important cornerstone of any society, and is key to human capital development and social inclusion. In times of crisis, we all have to ensure that mitigating efforts do not exclude or diminish the space for young people to have access to correct information and knowledge, express their opinion and offer solutions to tackle the crisis," said MarcoluigiCorsi, deputy regional director of Unicef East Asia and Pacific.
"The voices and sentiments expressed by the childrentoday is a clarion call for action to protect the safety, well-being and aspirations of our future generations, in the face of a complex crisis. As we rally to build socio-economic resilience of the affected communities and implementrecovery plans for this global pandemic,let us remember the vulnerable children amongst us and work together to secure their future,"said Terry Ferrari, regional leader East Asia Pacific, World Vision International.