The Day of the African Child (DAC) is observed by the African Union member states on the 16th of June annually. This year, the day was commemorated under the theme; ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’ as adopted by the African Union Executive Council, during its 34th Ordinary Session, held on 07 – 08 February 2019. The Day of the African Child comes at a time when the continent in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, is reeling from the effects of the Global Corona Virus pandemic which has claimed lives world over and decimated livelihoods and education options for vulnerable children. According to the African Union, nation states are encouraged to ensure application of a child rights-based approach and use the four principles of children’s rights as a tool for realizing access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa.
Locally, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) in partnership with the Archdiocese of Harare and Diocese of Gokwe, are implementing various initiatives that seek to promote resilience and increase nutrition particularly for children in Gokwe and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP). These projects are designed in such a way that they respond to the four principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which are ‘non-discrimination, devotion to the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development’.
We are ensuring that children’s rights to health and nutrition are promoted in marginalised- hard to reach rural areas though providing school children with face masks, hand washing stations, running water in schools and provision of information including IEC material that targets children during the lockdown with COVID-19 related information on how to protect themselves. During this lockdown period we understand that livelihoods have been lost meaning the already dire situation for many children is even made worse. Considering this, we have undertaken to feed at least 365 children that are enrolled at Chipawa primary school in UMP through CSB dry rations. Working with the local district nutrition office, we are feeding children from their homes for them to cope and adapt to the COVID situation regarding food security.
Cognisant of the correlation between our WASH approach and the COVID-19 WHO guidelines, we have scaled up the provision of water through increasing borehole drilling in schools and communities in Gokwe and UMP. Through this we have also increased the handwashing capacity of communities and schools for them to practise handwashing as a coping mechanism against the Corona Virus. CAFOD and partners are contributing to deconcentrating spaces where communities and children converge in an effort to fetch water often from unsafe sources; we are doing this through piping water to convenient locations where distances for women and children in search of water are greatly reduced.
COVID-19 presents are very difficult situation and it calls for innovative approaches and more resources to respond to children’s needs. In our work we have witnessed some structural and class challenges that affect children predominantly in the marginalised areas, including their right to education. While the more advanced section of society is now resorting to online learning, children in the rural areas where are working, are being left behind. This is due a combination of issues ranging from poor connectivity to inability to afford the whole arrangement of online learning.
The presence of the Corona Virus remains a challenge that calls for more collaboration between government and civil society as we work towards eradication. We continue to trial new approaches and make sure that we advance the interests of children in all our work as we seek to achieve the SDG goal of leaving no one behind. Ends//