A first-of–its-kind analysis of country data on violence against children and adolescents in the Americas reports that while the region has taken important positive and serious action, gaps in prevention and response leave many children behind.
This report from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) which was released last week highlighted the problems faced by children in the Americas, particularly in these COVID related times.
According to PAHO, early data indicates that the pandemic is associated with increasing risk of domestic violence, including violence against children.
Here in Saint Lucia our children are faced with the same problems as outlined in the PAHO report. Domestic abuse, violence, including sexual abuse and other negative forms of behaviour were faced by some of our children, long before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated the problem.
Past pages of this newspaper have been filled with stories of children abused and violated, and most of them within their own family circles.
While some of the abuse and violence have been swept under the carpet by families over the years, one entity, which refuses to be silent is that of the non-governmental organization called ‘Raise Your Voice’. A well-known NGO in Saint Lucia, the group is ever ready to document and speak of the abuse and violence women and children in particular have been going through in Saint Lucia, always willing to cite several instances where key departments within government, with the responsibility to address the issues children face, have fallen short.
As noted by PAHO, with the pandemic, the problem children face has gained new urgency. As a result of the pandemic children have reduced access to friends, relatives and health and protection services that might have provided support to them.
We are acutely aware that violence against children have devastating and life-long consequences for them and it is for this reason we are calling on all who could improve the lives of our children in these COVID times to step up.
In this nation, children should never feel unwanted, unloved and abandoned. Repeatedly it has been said that children are the leaders of tomorrow therefore, what kind of leaders are we preparing for tomorrow when we have children that are abused and violated?
As we ponder this, it is well to remember that our homes, schools and churches are our ‘households’. They are the heart of the community known as the Saint Lucian community, the Saint Lucian society; therefore, the prosperity and well-being of that society/community depends upon the influences coming from the home, school and church where our children can be found.
Violence and abuse should never be forthcoming from the heart of the community since it could only lead to more violence and abuse from our children when they become our leaders.
It is in light of this that we urge government put on the front burner, if it is not there, or keep it on the front burner, if it is already there, the issues confronting our children and find ways at preventing and responding to these issues at the soonest, rather than later.
We need swift implementation and enforcement of laws against violence and abuse of children. And as PAHO noted, we should be challenging social norms and values that justify use of violence on our children.
We join in the call to countries to strengthen implementation of action plans and laws to address violence against children.