MANILA - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Philippines on Thursday urged the public to ensure the safety and well-being of children as various measures affecting them have been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
With schools closed nationwide and people ordered to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19, children's routines and support systems are disrupted, exposing them to violence, distress and neglect, said lawyer Marj Ardivilla, child protection specialist of UNICEF Philippines.
"The key message on the pandemic is that there is a silent emergency happening at home, where home confinement, isolation, economic woes also increase at risk children to exposure of other types of violence, not just online," Ardivilla said in an interview on ANC.
"We talk about physical violence. We talk about psychological violence. We talk about emotional violence."
As people moved online to communicate due to the restriction of their movement in public, children can also be exposed to cyber violence and risky online behavior, Ardivilla warned.
She urged parents and guardians to support their kids deal with the crisis despite feeling anxious and stressed.
"Practice open communication and nurture an open and caring environment at home," she said, adding children rely on their parents to provide a sense of safety and security.
To create a sense of normalcy at home while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN's children's agency advised parents to be calm and proactive, stick to a routine, let their children feel their emotions, check with them about what they're hearing, create welcome distractions, and monitor their own behavior.
In a statement released Tuesday, UNICEF also called on the Philippine government to align with global guidance to release children in conflict with the law, and immediately adopt and implement guidelines to protect children against COVID- 19 for those whose continuing detention will be required by law.
“In times of emergency, children are already confused and distressed from the fear and anxiety brought by the uncertainty of the spread of disease. We at Unicef would want to ensure that there is a protective and caring environment for children at all times," said Patrizia Benvenuti, Unicef Philippines Chief of Child Protection Section.
"We encourage all local government units to implement the recently launched Joint Memorandum Circular that shall protect the best interest of children, by ensuring that they are physically, emotionally, and psychologically protected all the time," she added.