The West Coast Region Disaster Coordinator has stressed the need for states to have zero tolerance for all forms of violence against children.
Binta Sey Jadama was speaking recently at Mayork Junior and Senior Secondary School conference hall in the Foni Bondali District, West Coast Region, while presenting a lecture on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
“DRR programme should incorporate not only an assessment of potential risks faced by children and their communities, but also an analysis of preventive measures to mitigate risks,’’ she remarked.
She further stated that working across sectors, including education, health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), is yet another operational plan that should furthermore be in line with the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPHA), “as past disasters have taught us that reducing disaster risk cannot be achieved without addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability”.
During disasters, she pointed out, children and women are the most affected groups, as children account for 50-60 percentage of those affected by disaster with some studies putting the figure as higher as 70%.
Climate change impacts, she observed, are projected to increase the number of children affected by disasters, noting that due to their physical, cognitive and physiological development, children are highly susceptible to effects of environmental degradation, climate extreme events such as disasters, poor sanitation and air quality, contaminated water and extreme weather.
Madam Jadama stated that apart from the physical threat to life, disasters exacerbate incidences of violence, separation from parents and caregivers.
“Exploitation and abuse are those that threaten the overall well-being and full development potential of children,” she added.
The Disaster Coordinator went on to emphasised that children constitute a significant proportion of people affected by disasters, as there is a general lack of meaningful children’s participation in the risk management process since communities perceive children largely as passive recipients of services. “Consequently, children are rarely involved in disaster preparedness, response and measures to mitigate climate change and disaster risks. During sudden and slow onset disasters, new threats emerge and existing risks are exacerbated for children and their communities because at the same time, protection mechanisms from the household, to the community and state are further compromised, leaving children with weakened social safety nets and support systems. As a result, children become more susceptible to a range of threats, including physical, psychological, and sexual violence and exploitation, child labour, trafficking, separation from families among others”.
Jadama noted that the loss of birth certificates and other official records poses further obstacles to accessing essential social services such as healthcare and education; that it may even result in the loss of legal status and statelessness.
by Alhagie Babou Jallow