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Child abuse has soared during COVID-19

16 September 2021

Joining Forces for Africa (JOFA), the consortium formed by six major child-focused NGOs (Child Fund International, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children Villages, Terre des Hommes International Federation, and World Vision), has released its new report “Protecting children during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond”. The study gives worrying data about child protection vulnerabilities in Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

About JOFA

The Joining Forces for Africa project (JOFA) is working to reduce the level of violence children and adolescents face across five African countries – Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The pandemic had, and is still having, a big impact on these countries and children are the hidden victims. As a result of COVID-19, they are more at risk to be subject to violence and abuse. This led the European Union to award a €10 million grant to JOFA to address major child protection issues in these five countries across three years (August 2020-2023). Through JOFA, Plan International has two main objectives: promoting children's rights and ending violence against children. “Joining Forces for Africa - Protecting children from violence during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond” (JOFA) is the first joint project of the alliance.

Alarming findings

The findings are extremely concerning. Physical and emotional violence against children and the risk of sexual and gender-based violence have risen. Early and forced marriages are also increasing in numbers.

“We have seen an important increment of child labour, abuse, and exploitation”, says Andy Hill, Project Manager JOFA: “Children are supplementing family earnings with heavy, dangerous labour. Some girls are forced to exchange sex for money and food while other children are forced to beg.”

We have seen an important increment of child labour, abuse, and exploitation

Children and their parents are experiencing increased psychological and emotional distress, and children are facing higher levels of emotional and psychological abuse from parents and caregivers. The pandemic has forced some children to join armed groups or gangs and has amplified the risks that children with disabilities already face.

A joint response to protect children

“We are taking specific measures to prevent and respond to these risks by actively engaging children, communities, and policymakers”, says Hill.

JOFA is working with local organisations in all five countries to ensure no child is left behind by implementing behaviour change campaigns and training children’s groups and communities to tackle child exploitation, abuse, and harmful practices against children. 

“Advocacy is key”, says Hill: “We are working together with key policymakers to prioritise social protection programmes, strengthen child protection systems, and ensure a safe return to schools for all children”.

Co-funded by the European Union, the JOFA project aims to benefit nearly one million children, parents, caregivers, and service providers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, and Uganda until 2023.

Download the report “Protecting children during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond”.

Contact: Andy Hill – Joining Forces for Africa (JOFA) Project Manager