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Experts Deliberate on Children’s Challenges, Solutions in the Wake of COVID-19

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By Shadrack Nyakoe

Nairobi has hosted a delegates’ conference bringing together African countries in partnership with Europe and USA to confer on child protection problems and solutions in and for Africa, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

The gathering on the topic The Theology and Practice of Child Protection in Africa in Times of Pandemics has been convened by the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network – Africa (JENA) of the Jesuit Conference on Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) in collaboration with The Vatican COVID-19 Commission – Africa Taskforce, The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of East and Southern Africa (AMECEA) and the Catholic Care for Children (CCC).

“The immense challenges that the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought to this region of the world has sharpened our thinking and made the need for deep reflection on how we care for and protect the most vulnerable in our societies ever more important,” observed Bishop Charles Kasonde, President, AMECEA.

“How we care for and safeguard children must be at the heart of that discernment,” he stated.

The event was attended by the child protection experts representing the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.

Other partners present for the event include religious organizations such as the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK), the Association of The Religious in Uganda (ARU), Changing the Way We Care and the Zambia Association of Sisterhoods. Also attending will be representatives from UNICEF, World Bank, US State Department officials and USAID.

The conference seeks to formulate recommendations in the form of operative theology and practical strategies regarding child protection that are faithful to God’s will and purposes.

“The COVID-19 crisis and its impacts provide an opportunity for rethinking child protection,” said Fr Charles Chilufya, Director, JENA during a pre-conference interview.

“The pandemic has exposed significant gaps in theories and practices of child protection when analyzed from various contemporary perspectives, whether theological, scientific, cultural or social,” he continued.

Even though children have not been the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are probably among the largest proportion of its victims.

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Children, of all ages, and in all countries, are being affected by the pandemic itself, particularly by the socio-economic impacts and by mitigation measures that may inadvertently have done more harm than good.

The pandemic is a universal crisis affecting all countries and peoples but for some children – especially in Africa – its impact is more specific to them and some of the impacts will be lifelong.

Nor have the harmful impacts of the pandemic have not been distributed equally. They have been most damaging for children, especially those already in vulnerable situations and in the poorest places and regions.

Ultimately, the COVID-19 crisis has had and is still having a profound effect on children’s wellbeing.

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