Saturday, December 3, 2022

As was the case with the pandemic, children are at the receiving end of cost of living crisis

Covid-19 had presented what turned out to be one of the biggest challenges for both our country’s police and also social welfare. As a result of covid-19, Botswana government like many around the world resorted to lockdowns. People were literally quarantined into their homes for months on end; victims locked with abusers. Consequently lockdowns resulted in a rise in domestic violence. We all know how victims and perpetrators were locked together in small spaces and the chance for escape was diminished by the fact that movements were outlawed. Schools were closed down and movements out of homes, save for a few select cadres were outlawed. Children felt trapped. They were unable to flee the abusers.

They were unable to report to authorities. Homes felt like nightmares because children lived in small spaces in close proximity to those abusing them. They literally lived and felt liked captured animals living in cages. And there was immense terror and stress. Many of the young girls fell pregnant as a rest of the abuse and predation. Lockdowns probably resulted in a spike in the largest Gender Based Violence in the history of this country. Unsurprisingly, both women and children were seen to be by far the biggest victims. Social welfare professionals reported abuses that included a rise in teenage pregnancy. Those were serious evils that sadly were looked at as only side effects of covid-19. As the country started to slowly open up, the extent of destruction and damage to human life has only just begun to become apparent. Reversing those will take much longer.

More resources will be needed. And there will be need for leadership and goodwill. Today the world is experiencing a crisis as a result of rising cost of living. Like the pandemic, the cost of living crisis is exposing a number of big challenges in our society. There are too many faultlines that need urgent attention. Social welfare experts are saying that there is a discernible spike in abuse and sexual exploitation especially among minors, chiefly the girls. Sexual exploitation is accompanied by violent aggression against these children. Households are under a squeeze. The resultant economic pressures are unleashing demonic behaviour among people. And worse victims are feeling helpless. Those feeling the economic pressures often vent those on the vulnerable who often are children.

For households that had abuse even before the cost of living, such places are now feeling more like hell than a home. Many of them are totally unable to cope. As they struggle, the children are once again at the receiving end. Parents and guardians are venting on them. The same way children felt trapped in by the pandemic, today they feel hostage to the anger of those that are under siege as a result of the deteriorating economic fundamentals in their homers. We are of the view that children can be helped. Government should not reduce subventions that go towards helping children with such things like meals at school.

We need to double up on providing real assistance to the victims who are the victims. We need to further strengthen NGOs providing support to abused children and women. Interventions by governments need to be more targeted. Migrants women and their children have become especially vulnerable as a result of prevailing economic conditions. Even during the best of timers, these were always a special case. Their situation is worse today.

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