Photo: UNICEF

“It is heartwarming to see the outpouring of support and the willingness of individuals and businesses to support the children. But, UNICEF cautiones that it is absolutely crucial in such stressful and challenging times to ensure that the solutions chosen are in the very best interests of the child, designed to keep children connected to their communities, placed in family environments where they can grow and prosper. 

“In trying to do good, some assume that a cold roof over their head is the only solution. It is not.  In fact, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, years of assessing institutionalized children, years of research, and sadly years of lost opportunities and lost development for children make it very clear that institutions and facilities are not the right or even a safe place for children. We must work together as quickly as possible to find ‘family’ environments for the children.

“UNICEF therefore welcomes MOLISA’s guidance dated 23 September to prioritize family-based alternative care within communities for children orphaned by COVID-19. This is the timely decision to ensure that children deprived of parental care due to COVID-19 receive the support they need to overcome this incredibly challenging and difficult period, to have love and attention, even though it doesn’t come from their beloved parents, and through this care to thrive and to develop to their full potential. 

“The immediate and long-term damage caused by family separation and placement in institutions on children is well documented, in countries of this region and the world. Recognising that such places are never the best option for children, many countries no longer allow children to be placed in institutions – and have instead developed a child protection system that ensures alternative family placements are identified and monitored, Government allowances are provided, allowing children at risk to stay in a family environment, in their own community, connected to what they know, able to attend the same school with the same friends and supportive community.

Photo: UNICEF

“Children in institutions or facilities are regularly isolated from their extended families and local communities. Deprived of parental care, they more often endure physical, psychological, emotional and social harm – with consequences that last a lifetime. These children are also more likely to experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“To prevent and respond to this crisis for children in the immediate and long-term, it is vital that governments identify where possible extended families who are supported with the emotional, practical and financial support they need. Where this does not prove possible, then families ready to provide the love and support can and must now be found for each of the children, with Government supporting and monitoring the children as they grow. 

“As COVID-19 continues to devastate families and communities, we must protect every child’s right to live and grow up in an environment that supports their physical, psychological, social and emotional development. The call to action to ensure children can thrive in family-based care environments rather than in institutions matters now more than ever as the communities address unprecedented challenges caused by COVID 19”./.

According to UNICEF