Blog author: Beth Plessis, Head of Programme Funding
The hardship facing street children is the untold story of the Covid-19 pandemic. Without access to information, shelter, food, water or care, they are undoubtedly at high risk.
To start to tackle the problem of keeping street children safe in this global emergency, we need to form strong partnerships with likeminded organisations, with the influence and resources to urgently respond.
Partnering to help the most vulnerable
I am proud to share that Consortium for Street Children is embarking on a partnership with AbbVie – a research driven biopharmaceutical company based in the US. AbbVie takes on the toughest health challenges, not just treating diseases but also investing in making a remarkable impact on people’s lives. We will be benefitting from AbbVie’s COVID-19 Community Resilience Fund to provide crucial support to street children and help them access the services, information, and legal protection they need throughout the pandemic.
We first partnered with AbbVie in 2017 to help develop the Legal Atlas for Street Children: a comprehensive guide to laws, policies and procedures affecting street children in individual countries. A team AbbVie attorneys and legal professionals donated their time to investigate the legal rights of children in countries including Bangladesh, Ecuador, Greece, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Why street children need help
In this new climate where governments focus their efforts on containing the pandemic, children’s rights are more crucial than ever. Street children are facing even greater risks, and public health measures are increasingly further infringing on their rights.
Our members on the frontline tell us that street-based and drop-in services are severely impacted, with areas in lockdown and curfews enforced at night. There is more pressure than ever on our partners to provide shelter, nutrition and washing facilities, and they are struggling to respond to the increase in demand.
For many street children, following advice to keep safe and stay at home is simply not an option. They are often unable to self-isolate in a safe home and are crowded together in the few shelters that do exist. When told to wash their hands, they have no soap or clean water to do it with. And when instructions appear on the internet or in newspapers, most cannot read them and remain uninformed. They face hostility in public and can be detained in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons if found breaking curfew. They are frightened, alone and vulnerable.
One partner in the Philippines told us:
“It is likely that there are many, many people in these [urban poor] communities who are, or will be infected, and likely will not have access to appropriate medical care or assistance… we are also concerned about reports of abuse of children by authorities in the name of public health. We are also alarmed that more than 20,000 people have been arrested. We are continuing to brace ourselves and do everything we can to help the communities we work with comply with social distancing protocols and access appropriate shelter where necessary.”.
Partnering for change
In the critical weeks and months ahead, we will be partnering with AbbVie to help prevent street children from being overlooked and save lives through:
- Supporting and strengthening on-the-ground services such as drop-in centres, shelter and healthcare and helping them respond to increased demand
- Sharing legal analysis of what to do in quarantines, how to respond to government clean-up operations and how to make sure street children are not arbitrarily arrested, forced into overcrowded jail cells, harassed, and discriminated against
- Supporting our network members to speak up for street children so they are included in initiatives to reduce the spread of the virus, such as screening, hand washing and a safe environment to self-isolate.
- Supporting our network members to help children understand the health crisis, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they become ill through providing plain language tools and information
- Scaling up our advocacy and legal assistance so that governments and decision makers understand how Covid-19 measures impact on street children.
We proudly support the stand AbbVie has taken to urgently respond to the pandemic and protect some of the world’s most vulnerable communities; and acknowledge the amazing contribution they are making to protect the lives of street children.