Beware of COVID19 crisis impact on children, warns Vuniwaqa

CHILDREN are most vulnerable during times of crisis so parents and guardians need to pay attention to the possible long term impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the young.

Aside from the obvious medical impact on young people, their rights, lives and well being is at risk, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa said.

The National Child Helpline 1325, operated by the government and its civil society partner, Medical Services Pacific can be useful to parents who need help in supporting their children.

Operated all day every day (24/ 7) by professional counselors who can talk with and offer support to the children as well as their parents, the helpline is accessible from any telephone service provider and is free.

“Throughout this period that Fiji fights COVID-19, the National Child Helpline 1325 will continue to operate as normal, providing confidential support and information by telephone,” Minister Vuniwaqa said.

“A Child Helpline Counsellor will be available to talk to you and your child 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.”

MSP Country Director Ashna Shaleen said parents and guardians should expect children to behave and react far from normal as they struggle to understand, and adapt to a pandemic that is also causing anxiety among adults.

In the past fortnight, two young people, one 24 year old male and a 17 year old female were prosecuted in the Magistrates Court in Suva for remarks they made against authorities on social media. 

Each made social media posts in relation to the COVID19 national curfew.

Shaleen said the best way to respond is to listen to children’s concerns and give them extra love and attention.

“Children may respond to stress in different ways such as being more clingy, anxious, withdrawing, angry or agitated. We will also be working closely with the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and our key stakeholders in facilitating referrals and response in case of child abuse throughout,” Shaleen said.

Fiji’s first case of COVID19 was registered on March 17. Since then, the country has recorded 15 more cases, bringing the country’s tally to 16.

Of the 16 people with COVID19, three are children, a male toddler who is also the country’s third patient, and two young girls aged 11 and 9 years who are patients 12 and 16 respectively.

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