By Mampe Ntsedi
The invisible members of the society during crisis and emergency
The overview of state of the child in 2020, is quite a difficult topic to deal with especially because no impact study has been done. In terms of protection it gets worse when one reflects on what has happened since the beginning of the year. The building of the Children’s Hospital by the Fund provides hope that not all is doom and hopelessness. While we celebrate this achievement knowing that some children’s health issues will be met, it remains a challenge on what needs to be done to protect children.
The country saw an unprecedented rise of violence in schools and communities which led to the Fund asking its strategic partners and leaders to reflect on how the country has treated children. It seemed that as a country no one is accountable to the children, when a child dies in school no one takes responsibility. Last year we initiated the campaign theme “We Failed Them”. We had failed the children who died in the pit latrines, we had failed numerous children who died on the roads of South Africa on their way to school commuting from their communities. Part of the reason for the long distance travelling is because education where they live is not of the quality their parents’ want them have.
The new decade has not been any different. The country is fighting one crisis after another. The nation was in mourning for most of the first part of the year with the amount of children who died in schools. As if this was not enough a woman lost three of her children in one take, she lost her family’s future, her legacy in one go, why because she wanted a better education for her children. The policy says children should not travel more than five (5) km from home to access education, but that is not the case. Children wake up as early as 5 am to get into a taxi to get quality education. This is not what should be happening the fight for access to education in suburbs should not be an issue 25 years later. The government should be prioritizing quality education in every township and every suburb. Access to education is the right that South African children have guaranteed in the constitution. Access to quality education should never lead to vulnerability and creating unsafe conditions for children and their families.
As if the deaths of children were not enough, the coronavirus hit us. Oh what a start of the decade! Never before has the world agreed to be in solemn agreement in how to deal with a problem: wash your hands, stay away from each other, we all need to flatten the curve. I am not sure the reason why the care for children is not high on the agenda for politicians as it is when it comes to the coronavirus. It might be because it is said that while children can get the virus, but it does not progress to dangerous state. Plans were provided on how and what everyone should do during the period of the lockdown for instance, there is a plan for women should they find themselves vulnerable and abused.
There has not been any strategy that has been provided for children during the lockdown. Children just know that they have to stay at home with their parents and guardians. Parents need to support their children to spend a minimum of two (2) hours studying per day. The one problem with this is that parents are anxious and scared because they are also trying to understand the crisis and how it impacts their income.
It looks like children only exist when they receive education, but their rights to access healthcare, protection and safety does not seem to be a priority. Children have been instructed to stay at home longer than usual and I am not sure if parents have enough information to explain to their children why they are all at home. Children are told to wash their hands. Access to water and sanitation is major problem in most rural and township schools, as well the communities where they live.
The lack of planning for children in times of emergency and disaster needs attention not just by government but the rest of civil society. While politicians worry about how they going to manage the lockdown I will like to thank institutions like Afrika Tikkun who remembered that children will still need to eat and are providing food parcels to those who need support. The new decade should be about putting children at the center, developing interventions and strategies that put children first by ensuring that their rights are protected.
As our country enters a national lockdown following a call by the South African government to limit the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF)’s wishes to express its support and compliance of this directive. NMCF would also like to take this opportunity and assure all friends, donors and stakeholders of the organisation of its continued mission during this period.
In the past week leading up to the announcement by Honourable President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on March 23, 2020, NMCF had already taken measures to protect its staff and various stakeholders including programme beneficiaries, by requesting staff to work remotely where possible and restricting physical interactions.
Our flagship project, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the second dedicated children’s health facility in the region, also implemented various strategies in the lead up to this period. This includes measures to protect patients, families and staff at the facility informed by guidelines from the Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation and National Institute for Communicable Disease.
Our work on the ground promoting the safety and protection of children and sustaining their families’ livelihoods remains pertinent particularly in these challenging times when they are the most vulnerable among us. Aimed at capacitating families to cope with vulnerable situations we remain confident that our interventions will play a fundamental role in supporting them during this challenging period.
In support of the call by the South African government to “flatten the curve”, we further urge all South Africans to abide by the restrictions imposed by our government during the following 21 days. This will ensure that our health system is not overburdened and that together, we strive to combat the spread of Covid-19.
We further encourage our broader community to exercise necessary hygiene by frequently cleaning surfaces, practice covering coughs and sneezes in the crook of their elbows and washing hands frequently and supporting children to do the same.
We would also like to remind our supporters of the urgent need to continue supporting the important work of NMCF to alleviate some of the challenges presented to our most vulnerable communities due to this pandemic. Whilst, we cannot accept physical donations at this time, we encourage those who feel moved to pledge their support by visiting the donate page on our website to offer a contribution.
In these times, we must remain hopeful and optimistic. In the words of our founder, Nelson Mandela, we are all reminded that, “Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward.”
Our children deserve no less. May God bless South Africa
The work of Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund) is about children, their families and communities. To reach these children, the Fund has partnered with local based organisations. These organizations have good men and women who are committed to visit families, hold community meeting, facilitate trainings and workshops. All these is done in the name of improving the quality of life of children and young people of this country. We thank them for their work and commitment.
This good work is currently challenged by – COVID – 19 viral epidemic. This is a virus that is highly infectious and will probably spread rapidly throughout our country.
Due to the National State of Disaster declared by Pres. Ramaphosa on Sunday, 15 March 2020 stemming from the COVID-19 virus pandemic, the Fund support Small Projects Foundation, one of the partners, on key steps that need to be taken to protect beneficiaries and staff from infection by COVID-19 virus. The message is for to all partners in the space of children’s programmes
Steps to be taken:
Internal staff: 1.) Education of all staff on COVID-19 infection symptoms and ways to prevent infection. 2.) Provision of materials for essential hand washing by staff after every social contact, use of toilets and public spaces. 3.) Reduction of meetings, gatherings, public travel. 4.) In line with the early closure of schools-allow leave for staff to care for own children and families. 5.) Develop low risk service provision modes including call centre, pamphlets, voice calls, social media contact.
Beneficiaries: 1.) Limit meetings and contact to prevent infection of beneficiaries. 2.) Each staff member to ask beneficiary before starting whether any signs of fever, coughing, difficulty breathing in themselves or contacts recently. If yes, advise beneficiary to stay at home and call COVID 19 Helpline. 3.) Ensure each staff member maintains social distance (1,5 m) during home visits and preferably meet out of buildings.. 4.) Ensure staff members stay at home if exhibiting any symptoms of fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle pain or unusual tiredness and call the toll-free helpline 0800029999 for advice and or testing. 5.) Stop any non-critical daily visits to immune-compromised or vulnerable households or work in larger groups until staff are fully capacitated and are taking necessary precautionary measures. 6.) Ensure that all beneficiaries and COVID 19 exposed are treated with kindness, dignity and confidentiality and offered support going forward.
Encourage and advises partners to offer staff official leave. This will ensure that measures are in place to prevent further infection, allow staff to support and educate their families
We therefore request your understanding and support for us to take these measures.
The Fund also note that this will result in some targets and deliverables not being met.
More points to consider:
1.Know COVID-19 infection symptoms
2. Know how to prevent infection
4. If feeling ill, stay at home, call hotline and inform your supervisor immediately
5. Ensure that your family is informed and supported
6. Find creative ways to serve our communities through phone, whatsapp, call centre or one on one sessions.
7. Stop holding meetings with large groups of people (more than 20). Also, before each meeting. Check if any of the participants have COVID-19 symptoms or contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms – if yes, cancel meeting with that person and refer to Hotline and suggest self-isolation
8. Share facts about COVID-19 and safety with beneficiaries including COVID -19 Hotline: 08000 29999 or Whatsapp: 0600123456
9. Keep project staff healthy by making sure they know how to avoid infection and are supported if infected
10. Protect confidentiality
11. Treat all with dignity and compassion
12. Support all who may need advice, guidance or help
The most at risk include:
Remember, you are uniquely skilled to bring hope, information, care and support to families, beneficiaries and communities in this time.
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