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ASEAN and SAARC Join Hands to Tackle COVID-19 Domestic Trauma

by Dr. Santhosh Mathew - 27 May, 2020, 12:00 337 Views 0 Comment

COVID-19, a global pandemic, that threatens the fragility of our globalised society, has touched every corner of the world. From the direct health impact, economic, social and political consequences, the pandemic has the potential to reshape countries across the globe. Southeast Asia in this case is addressing the pandemic from a domestic and regional perspective so as South Asia. COVID-19 being a global health problem must be addressed through a coordinated multilateral response. Hence, Southeast Asia through ASEAN and its dialog partners have made the effort to address the situation at a multilateral level. Vietnam — the Chair of ASEAN for the year 2020, has been focusing on promoting the group’s collective response at the regional level, which relates to information sharing to address the number of cases and provisions for their treatment, ensuring the implementation of strictures that helped in preventing the movement at national borders and ports of entry and addressing the evacuation of citizens stranded in other countries.

ASEAN responses on two broad parallels at the intra-ASEAN level i.e. among the member countries and the regional level with its dialog partners. Apart from all the tackling programme of ASEAN on response to COVID-19, the Child Right Coalition Asia has urged ASEAN and SAARC to join hands as joining forces alliance in response to the domestic violence faced by millions of children in Asia amidst lockdown. There is a growing need for a collective, coherent, and multi-stakeholder response to the pandemic. The Child Right Coalition Asia points out that the regional leaders must put children’s rights at the heart of their fight against the novel virus. Along with leading agencies it calls for the government in Asia to adopt a child right approach in their COVID-19 response as the pandemic is having a profound effect on children’s physical health, mental wellbeing, education, social development, protection, and participation.

We see that the pandemic which has already taken a devastating hold on children, in particular the most vulnerable ones, as it becomes difficult for the family who are financially unstable, as they lose their livelihoods and sources of income, therefore, cannot give access to education and basic healthcare to their children’s. Lockdown measures of self-isolation increase the risk of children, particularly in girls who become victims of domestic violence, online bullying and other forms of abuse.

Many Asian countries have reported a massive report on domestic violence. India and Singapore being the hotlines of increased domestic violence. India not only reported domestic violence but rape and molestation too. Recently, an 18-year girl was raped by her father, mother seen helping the father. This incident clearly brings into the picture that children are by far not safe in their own homes. Philippines and India have seen a string of humiliating and degrading punishments meted out to children and young people for breaking COVID-19 curfews. A 12-year-old boy was allegedly beaten brutally by the policemen in India while he was selling fruits during the lockdown. In order to eradicate child labour the world stood together which ensured that children should be protected with any sort of labour but the pandemic has not only to force them to work meanwhile the protected are abused by the protection.

In response, both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have announced measures to coordinate responses to the pandemic. They respectively declared their commitments to take regional-level measures to fight the pandemic and address its impacts. In a joint statement, the seven leading child rights agencies (Child Rights Coalition Asia, ChildFund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes, and World Vision International) urge ASEAN and SAARC to make sure that child protection measures are included in the virus response.

Amihan V. Abueva, Regional Executive Director, Child Rights Coalition Asia, said: “The COVID-19  pandemic is a child rights crisis in Asia. Due to school closure across the region, tens of millions of children have been forced into potentially unsafe home environments for weeks or months on end. We have received extremely worrying reports from several counties that domestic violence is on the rise. Governments of ASEAN and SAARC must put children’s well-being at the centre of the pandemic response. Child protection services must be designated as essential and be given adequate resources to respond to reports of abuse.”

Children are often the hidden victims of any crisis. ASEAN and SAARC should give utter importance to mental health problems as it is some of the greatest causes of misery in our world and often exacerbated by stigma and discrimination. As we recover from COVID-19, we must provide more mental health services to communities and ensure mental health is included in universal health coverage.

It’s very necessary that Asia as a whole ensures that children don’t suffer because of measures taken to contain COVID-19 so when this is all over they can return to normal life with minimal distress or trauma. Hereafter, the virus that originated from Asia, and that many countries are going to face worst in the coming times from economic recessions to loss of human resource so it becomes necessary for all the countries to keep aside their politics, and collaborate closely by sharing information openly and transparently, and strengthen their ties with the NGO’s who are already working on the forefront fighting against the virus. The region should not only work for the present but consider the smooth working of the future as well. One day or the other the world should come back to their normal state.   

Dr. Santhosh Mathew
Dr. Santhosh Mathew
Author is an Assistant Professor, Centre For South Asian Studies, Pondicherry Central University, India.

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