A new survey reveals that kids are struggling with feelings of anxiety and fear related to missing out on school activities, missing their friends, and falling behind in class during this COVID-19 pandemic. We have to listen to children and support them during this crisis. Thanks Save the Children Nepal for initiating this.
As Nepal heads for a two-month-long lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40% of the population under 18 are staying at home. The mandatory lockdown situation enforced by the government has hindered children’s education, and there is an alarming concern regarding their mental health. There are news reports that provide evidence of the rampant increase of violence against children, online harassment, and the void of social isolation has not only created a void in their life, but the increasing fear of COVID-19 poses a critical threat to their well-being and development.
Minister of Women, Children, and Senior Citizen, Parbat Gurung interacted with children during Save the Children and Community Information Network’s (CIN) ‘Ministers with Children’ – a campaign designed to elevate the voices of children in COVID-19 discussions, to make elected representatives and policy-makers more accountable towards the need and challenges of children in Nepal.
The Minister in an hour-long live radio broadcast from the Community Information Network (CIN), broadcast from 300 + community FM stations, interacted and answered questions posed by children on COVID-19 and its effect in their lives. A 15 years old girl from Nepalgunj requested the minister to address the issue of lack of child-friendly spaces in the quarantine centers. “Children who tested positive for COVID-19 have to stay apart from their parents. These centers are not child-friendly, and they have to undergo fear and anxiety.” Minister Gurung assured that the development of child-friendly spaces is one of the priorities of the government, and sincere efforts are being made to ensure that mental health and well-being of children living in quarantine centers are not compromised.
“Children are facing unprecedented challenges, which has increased anxiety and fear inside them. The government would like to reassure that children’s issues are kept in the center-stage of COVID-19 discussion, and we will be focusing our efforts on ensuring their well-being,” shared, Minister Gurung. He also committed that the holistic well-being and protection of children will be ensured in the “national strategy”, and the children’s activities will also be amended to embed critical issues raised by children in the behest of emergencies. “To make policies more meaningful for children, it is important to listen to children and make sure that we act on their recommendations,” he concluded.
Save the Children had previously conducted state-level ‘Minister with Children’ campaign in Karnali State and State number 2. Violence against children, mental health, poverty and price hike, child marriage, digital divide, and education gap, communal harmony and rumor management, lack of child-friendly spaces in quarantine centers were the foremost issues raised by the children in the campaign. The Minister for Social Development, Karnali State, Dal Rawal had committed to disinfect schools that were used as quarantine centers and to ensure a safe transition back to schools. Similarly, Nawal Kishore Shah, the Minister for Social Development, State number 2 committed to introducing child-friendly distance learning tools through popular media to address the education gap witnessed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Children participated in the campaign through phone calls, social media, and through the Interactive Voice Receiver (IVR) – where children recorded their concerns and questions for the Federal and State Governments.
Speaking about the campaign, Bandana Risal, the Interim Country Director of Save the Children in Nepal expressed that the ‘Ministers with Children” national campaign resonates to Protect a Generation, Save the Children’s global response strategy to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the COVID-19 crisis. “Through this campaign, we would like to call upon policymakers, elected representatives, child-rights organizations to work towards, mitigating the impact of the pandemic on child survival, helping children learn, stay safe, and return to school, supporting family survival and food security through safety nets, and keeping children, families, and communities safe,” expressed Risal.
As part of the campaign, Save the Children will collaborate with concerned line ministries, and submit insights and evidence garnered through the ‘Ministers with Children’ campaign to advocate for child-centered policies and plans to protect the rights of children during emergencies.