PH COVID-19 recovery should include improving conditions for children – UN rep
MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 recovery roadmap of the Philippines should include measures to improve current conditions for children and the youth, especially as the pandemic has placed young people in more vulnerable situations.
This is among the recommendations that Dr. Najat Maalla, the United Nations (UN) Special Representative on Violence Against Children (VAC), made in a high-level dialogue with Philippine government officials and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef).
Unicef gave some details of the dialogue in a statement it issued on Tuesday.
“(The government must use the recovery from the pandemic) as an opportunity to build back better with and for children,” Maalla said.
“Bring together all key stakeholders for increased public expenditure and partnerships on integrated system of services for children, including for physical and mental health, education, child welfare and protection, and justice,” she added.
During the discussions, which included Secretary Rolando Bautista of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippines presented its plan to end violence against children and the current challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past, government agencies, particularly the DSWD, admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic had contributed to the rise of child abuse and sexual exploitation incidents.
One reason for such incidents is that lockdown measures forced children to stay indoors to limit exposure to the disease. But then it also exposed them to domestic abuse.
Another issue is the rise in children being exploited through pornographic videos of them being sold online — either forcibly or willingly, due to harsh economic conditions brought about by the lockdowns.
The increase in the production of child pornography has also been attributed to the so-called alter movement, which has been gaining ground on social media. Under this scheme, young people sell provocative photos of themselves using hashtags to entice buyers — which they do either due to necessity or sexual expression.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated children’s vulnerability to violence and exploitation. Globally, around 1.8 billion children live in the 104 countries where violence prevention and response services have been disrupted due to COVID-19,” Unicef said.
“In the Philippines, the Office of Cybercrime of the DOJ reported a 260% increase in cyber-tips related to online sexual exploitation and abuse of children (OSEAC),” it added.
According to Unicef, Philippine government officials assured the international body that they would continue working towards eliminating violence against children.
“The dialogue ended with the Government of the Philippines reaffirming its commitments to eliminate violence against children, as reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and key national policies and legislation,” Unicef said.
“The government will prioritize measures to strengthen inter-sectoral coordination, strengthen child protection systems at national and local levels, consolidate data collection and monitoring, reporting and referral mechanisms, and continue expansion of child protection services,” it noted.
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