At the beginning of 2020, no one could have imagined how challenging and unprecedented the year would become in numerous aspects of our daily lives, children’s rights included. One thing is certain – the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a major, unfavorable impact on the lives of many children and families. As the world was facing the struggles of dealing with this global pandemic, Humanium was working on preventing the crisis from impacting the youngest and the most vulnerable among us.
COVID-19 and Children’s Rights
In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, after the novel virus started to spread to different parts of the world. In addition to the negative impact on human health and global economy, the coronavirus also has proven to have an undeniably negative impact on children’s lives.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating short, medium and long-term consequences on children and their rights. It has also had “a grave physical, emotional and psychological effect on children, especially in countries which have established mandatory stay-at-home, lockdown or confinement measures and for children in situations of vulnerability” (OHCHR, 2020). Although children have appeared to have less severe symptoms and lower mortality rates than other age groups, there were, nevertheless, many direct socio-economic impacts affecting children, and child protection risks that were emerging on a daily basis (OHCHR, 2020).
It became evident already in April that the COVID-19 crisis was having a “devastating effect on children, with potentially far-reaching and long-term negative impacts” (Human Rights Watch, 2020). With more than 1.5 billion students out of school, widespread job and income loss, and economic insecurity likely to increase rates of child labor, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy and child marriage, it was clear that the coronavirus has become a serious crisis even for the youngest ones. The unexpected lockdown, quarantine and other restrictions on freedom of movement, as well as the disruption of school education, have put a great stress on the families leading to increased cases of domestic abuse and, consequently, lack of adequate social protection for children.
Combating the Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Rights
As soon as the coronavirus crisis started, Humanium set out as an organization to achieve a positive difference and improve the lives of children affected by the pandemic. In April 2020, in cooperation with our partner, Hand in Hand India, Humanium facilitated the delivery of 500,000 hand sanitizers to some of India’s poorest families.
Unfortunately, our Residential Special Training Center in Madhya Pradesh, India, hosting 55 former girl child laborers got closed, along with other centers and schools in India fighting the pandemic. Although this had led to an increasing number of child laborers, our local partner reacted timely by setting up ‘Satellite Centers’ where children gathered in small groups near their villages. They would get visited regularly by their teachers and the local team to maintain their level of education, ensure their safety and well-being, and make sure they are happy and healthy.
Soon, the number of countries affected by the virus began to increase rapidly. The coronavirus pandemic has created an acute child rights crisis also in Rwanda, with children’s rights there being seriously affected. With our partner AVSI, Humanium executed a critical emergency relief project which has supported families in five regions of Rwanda, namely Gatsibo, Gicumbi, Kamonyi, Nyanza and Ruhango. The project, entitled ‘Support to vulnerable families to mitigate COVID-19 impact’, has directly helped thousands of people with a focus on the most vulnerable groups, primarily children, newborns and young single mothers.
During the course of two months, Humanium provided essential resources, including food and cash transfer, needed to combat the coronavirus crisis. Furthermore, Humanium helped achieve remote school education and provided children with radios to facilitate distance learning, so the children were still able to virtually attend school and access their education despite the imposed lockdown. Finally, the project has funded the production of masks and soaps as the necessary personal protective equipment, essential to protect children and their families against contracting the virus.
Advocating for Children’s Environmental Rights
Although the coronavirus crisis has abruptly postponed many plans and objectives, Humanium has continued to face up to the challenges of dealing with the pandemic and resuming its work to improve the lives of vulnerable children worldwide. In 2020 in particular, Humanium was working very hard to see children’s environmental rights internationally recognized and fulfilled.
Having seen environmental challenges as principal and most serious issues facing the planet today, where children are particularly affected, Humanium has developed great interest and involvement in environment-related activities. With this in mind, we have created five additional web pages on our official website to provide thematic information on child environmental rights, and raise awareness on the ways in which children are uniquely affected by the ongoing climate challenges.
As a result of another great effort of our team, Humanium has launched an Online Petition aimed at the Brazilian Government to stop the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. Seeing that the forest fires in the Amazon Rainforest threaten to cause unprecedented environmental destruction, it undoubtedly, indirectly and gravely endangers and violates children’s rights. We are all therefore faced with a global climate emergency and action must be taken to protect, not only the Amazon Rainforest, but also the rights of the indigenous people and children. With thousands of signatures collected so far, the well-being of future generations and of our planet is in our hands!
Apart from these amazing achievements in 2020, Humanium proudly attended three informal sessions of the UN where state parties negotiated the adoption of the revolutionary Resolution on Realizing Children’s Rights Through a Healthy Environment. Previous to these sessions, Humanium joined forces with almost 1000 organizations supporting a Global Call for the UN to Recognize the Right to a Healthy Environment, and signed a Joint-Call to the HRC on Child Environmental Rights. Moreover, this year, we have successfully delivered two child rights coaching e-workshops to a group of child rights professionals, who have enjoyed taking part in a series of participatory discussions and activities centered around child rights.
“Our Child Rights Coaching was born as an idea to give a taste of the tools Humanium uses in its workshops, so that they may be shared in participants’ own operational contexts and used to further empower beneficiaries.”Arndt Soret, Humanium’s Co-Founder and CEO
Improving the Lives of Children in 2021
Humanium is continuing to improve the well-being of children worldwide and put an end to the violations many children face. One of the multifaceted services provided by Humanium is its legal Helpline which offers legal assistance to the victims of children’s rights violations. During the period of one year, Humanium receives hundreds of cases of child rights abuse from around the world and invests all its efforts into providing the victims with timely and efficient solutions.
Even though 2020 was a year no one could have predicted, we are hopeful that 2021 will be a year where children will be free to enjoy a happy, healthy and prosperous environment, and encouraged to fulfill their rights. Through our participatory approach and commitment to our Ethics Charter, Humanium will continue to implement its projects, in cooperation with our local partners, aimed at supporting children on a global scale. Our only priority has always been and will always be the protection of children and their welfare. If you would like to contribute to child rights protection by supporting our projects, we encourage you to consider making a donation, sponsoring a child or becoming a volunteer!
On the behalf of the entire Humanium Team, we wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Written by Ivana Kaćunko