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ECOWAS Member States In Collaboration With Partners Assess The Impact Of Covid-19 Pandemic On Child Rights And Protection

Abuja, 17th November, 2020. The Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs held two virtual meetings with the Regional Child Protection Partners Working Group (RCPWG) on the 16th of November and Annual Consultation with Member States’ Directors of Child on the 17th of November 2020, with Member Organizations of the RCPWG in attendance. The two meetings deliberated on ways of minimizing the impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Children in the ECOWAS region

At the Opening Ceremonies of the two meetings the ECOWAS Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa-Ugbe, represented by Ms. Raheemat Momodu, Head of the Human Security and Civil Society (HSCS) Division stressed the urgency in increasing the level of commitment to child rights and sought the application of creativity in limiting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the West African Child. She emphasized that we are all involved and accountable, not necessarily as the abusers, but as duty bearers whose role is to ensure that every child is safe, loved and provided with the tools to grow into productive adulthood.

Ms Raheemat Momodu recalled that in April 2020, the ECOWAS Commission and the RWGCP jointly issued a Joint Advisory signed by the ECOWAS Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender and Secretary of the RWGCP to Member States on Minimizing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children. This she said was done with the aim of supporting Member States in responding to the specific COVID-19 pandemic risks to child rights. She also reminded both meetings that due to the alarming increase in Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children, the President of the ECOWAS Commission H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi BROU issued a strongly worded Statement on the 22nd of June 2020 where he instructed the immediate development and implementation of the first ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to address Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) with a special focus on sexual violence targeted at children.

The Secretary of the RWGCP, Mr. Aime Bada also gave a briefing on RWGCP Member Organizations Response to COVID-19 pandemic and UNICEF gave a regional overview of national responses based on surveys, studies and interventions form their country offices.

The two meetings discussed that COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a clear and present danger; with a long term impact on children as they are clearly most vulnerable to both primary and secondary effects of the pandemic. Consequently, it was agreed that it is necessary for West Africa to determine the level of impact of the pandemic on children and re-strategize, to ensure the sustained realization of the goals of the ECOWAS Child Policy and related instruments.

The meeting with the RCPWG focused on determining the level of assistance from partners to Member States during the COVID-19 lockdown phase and revised the Joint ECOWAS/RCPWG Operational Plan to factor in the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, during the meeting with Member States, the Directors shared their various experiences and best practices, in addressing Child Rights issues within the context of the pandemic. They explained that the measures implemented were in collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of their various Governments, Partners and with Non State Actors. The meeting with Directors also gave the Commission the opportunity to examine and review the level of compliance of the Member States with the Joint Advisory and challenges encountered.

The meetings were also preceded by the development of an online Rapid Assessment Questionnaire by the ECOWAS Commission and administered to the Member States to capture the impact of the COVID -19 pandemic on Child Rights in the region. The Rapid Assessment Questionnaire focused on critical intervention measures required to mitigate the immediate, medium and long term impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic as well as provided insight on important elements in future preparedness. The filled Questionnaires will be compiled and analyzed with common themes drawn out and possible recommendations.

In closing, the ECOWAS Commission reiterated its commitment is ensuring that the rights of every child are upheld at every time. Both the Member States and Partners promised to improve on their performance to push for the prioritization of Child Rights in National Development Plans and to strengthen in country collaboration.

Participants at the virtual meetings were from the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, and the RWGCP. Membership of the RWGCP includes: Save the Children, Enda, UNICEF, IOM, ILO, World Vision, ISS WA, UNODC, Terre de Somme, MAEJT, Amnesty International, Plan International, Educo, SOS, Handicap International, Child Fund WHO, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNDP and others.

For more information and updates on COVID-19 across the West African Region, visit our website: https://www.ecowas.int/covid-19/

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