Eva Devita Harmoniatia
a Child Protection Task Force, Indonesia Pediatric Society, Jakarta, Indonesia
Emergency situations have devastating impact on children?s lives and have contributed to the wider global crisis in child protection. Emergencies and natural disasters increases the risk due to weakened child protection systems and disruption of preventive mechanisms. Since 2000, 2.3 billion people have been affected by disasters and in 2011 alone almost 200 million people were affected, including 100 million children. In 2013 UNICEF estimated that children constitute 50-60% of those affected by disasters and 535 million children in 2016. In conflict situations, half of the victims are children and currently 1.5 billion children live in conflict or fragile areas.1,2
The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction stated that disasters affect children?s medium-term development when schools are destroyed or damaged and house-hold assets and livelihood are lost. Emergency situation can last long after the initial crisis has passed. This situation requires effective and sustainable solutions to provide both short and long-term protection for children living in the area.1
Child protection in emergencies situations is how to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect of children during times of emergency caused by natural and man-made disasters, conflict, or other crisis. The most common risks of violence for children in the emergency situations are: 1). Dangers and injuries; 2). Physical violence and other harmful practises; 3). Sexual abuse; 4). Unaccompanied and separated child; 5). Psychosocial distress; 6). Children associated with armed forces or armed groups; 7). Child labour; and 8). Children and the justice system.3
Children affected by natural disaster have greater risk of experiencing violence and neglect due to social and economic pressure in the family in the crisis situation. Unfortunately, the reported rate of violence is less than the actual rate due to lack of required infrastructure and reporting mechanism. The emergency housing increased risk of some types of child abuse. Sexual violence against girls after conflicts and physical violence against boys after emergencies are common forms of violence. Risk of experiencing violence for children in the emergencies situations is also increased if there is a history of poverty, parental substance abuse, and exposure to violence.4-6 These identified risk factors can be a guide for humanitarian organization in providing appropriate plans to reduce the risk of violence against children post disaster.
In developing strong child protection systems, it is essential to ensure appropriate laws and policies are in place, focus on prevention, build a workforce that is able to protect children, and empower local communities. Collaboration with other organizations working in health and education to ensure that they can adequately support the protection of children during emergencies. Recognition of long term impacts of disaster or emergencies situation for children is also a very important task in child protection.1
UNICEF notes that in large scale emergencies where it will be difficult to establish guardianship arrangement for individual children, there are some action to protect children from human trafficking such as: 1). Conduct a rapid assessment of the situation of children; 2). Assist to prevent the separation of children from care givers and facilitate identification, registration, and medical screening of separated children; 3). Ensure that family-tracing systems are implemented, with appropriate care and protection facilities; 4). Interim care must be provided to separated children until they reunited with their families, placed in foster care, or other long-term arrangements have been made; 5). Providing psychosocial support to promote the child?s recovery; and 6). Establish procedures to ensure that children who are travelling during emergencies are with their primary caregivers.7
Child protection in emergencies situations must also include early psychosocial intervention to help recognise and reduce the effects of trauma, alleviate psychological distress, and strengthen resiliency to face the future. Nearly all children and adolescents who have experienced catastrophic situations will initially display symptoms of psychological distress, including intrusive flashbacks of the stress events, nightmares, withdrawal, inability to concentrate, and others. Providing a ?Child Friendly Space? (CFS) is one of the way to facilitate both physical and psychosocial needs of children in a stable environment. A CFS gives the children space to play, learn, express their feelings, and feel safe. It can be a school, a tent, or an open space in a camp or in a community.8,9
Ensuring child protection in emergencies situations should include many stake holders that are involve in recovery process of emergencies situation or disasters. Every stake holder involved should have a child protection policy and set their programs to fulfil the basic needs of children and protect them from violence in the crisis situations.
1. Ridsdel J, McCormick C. Protect my future: The links between child protection and disasters, conflict and fragility. Available at: https://familyforeverychild.org. Accessed August 3, 2019.
2. UNICEF. Child protection in emergencies. A toolkit for practitioners in pacific island countries. UNICEF Pacific 2015.
3. Save the children. What is child protection in emergencies? Available at: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net. Accessed August 3, 2019.
4. Cerna-Turnoff I, Fischer HT, Mayhew S, Devries K. Violence against children and natural disasters: a systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative evidence. PLoS ONE 2019. 14(5);e0217719.
5. Seddighi H, Salman I, Javadi MH, et al. Child abuse in natural disasters and conflicts: a systematic review. Research Article. Available at: https://doi.org. Accessed August 3, 2019. Abstract
6. Delaney S. Protecting children from sexual exploitation & sexual violence in disaster & emergency situations. ECPAT international. 2006; 41-8.
7. United Nations. Rapid response: prevention during emergencies. In: United Nations, editors. Global programme against trafficking in human beings. Toolkit to combat trafficking in persons. New York: United Nation Publication; 2008. p 453-5.
8. Webster C. Protecting children post-disasters. World Vision. Available at: https://www.worldvision.org. Accessed August 3, 2019.
9. UNICEF. Guidelines for child friendly spaces in emergencies. Available at: https://www.unicef.org. Accessed August 3, 2019.