Joint Statement on Child Protection Week: Protecting the Rights of #AllChildren

Date: 03/06/2020

The World Health Organisation describes COVID-19 pandemic as having a devastating impact across the world. Although governments are commended for their efforts to contain the virus for the health of their populations, there are also risks that may be exposing vulnerable children to maltreatment, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. With this said, in the South African context, the virus is peaking and we have seen the government take a “citizens first approach” to the exclusion of other categories of children.

In light of child protection week, as organisations that work with vulnerable children, we call on the South African government to note that the pandemic will gravely impact the most vulnerable children in our society. Vulnerable children include: unaccompanied and separated migrant children, stateless and disabled children who may or may not be documented. With the lockdown many of these children will be severely impacted pressured by growing economic vulnerability in households and increasing the threats of abuse, malnutrition, abandonment and exploitation.

Further to this, vulnerable children face extreme difficulties accessing social assistance, health and other basic services because of their documentation status. These essential services are central to all children’s development, and key in defending the COVID-19 pandemic. Vulnerable children are “invisible” and at risk being left behind.

We share a deep concern and pledge our support for both governments and members of communities to not only take cognisant of such children but to ensure that relevant steps are taken to safeguard their best interests.

We heed the call to action for the South African government to comply with its International, Regional and Domestic obligations of non-discrimination as well as right to survival and development of the child.  We further call for immediate action in the following areas:

  1. To do away with a “citizens first approach” by providing healthcare, social assistance and schooling, including access to feeding schemes, to vulnerable children regardless of their documentation status.
  2. To ensure that social workers and social auxiliary workers are resourced accordingly to identify such children and ensure their protection.
  3. Afford every child birth registration regardless of the documentation status of the parents.
  4. Ensure the removal of children facing harm to places of safety particularly undocumented children as they face the risk of trafficking and abuse.

We call on all who live in South Africa to pledge their protection of #AllChildren to ensure the prosperity of our future.

For comment or more information please contact:

Tshegofatso Mothapo: (Lawyers for Human Rights)

Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA)

Lotte Manicom (Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town)

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