In a matter of weeks since extreme social distancing kicked in, an alarming number of children across the country have fallen prey to sexual predators. Acting UNICEF Representative Sarah Ng’inja noted that since the beginning of lockdown, rape cases have risen, and it is displeasing that even minors have become victims. “It is heart-breaking to hear that out of 22 rape cases reported, seven of them are children aged between two and thirteen years old,” said Ng’inja.
She said during the same week, Botswana Police Service has also registered 23 cases of defilement. UNICEF, she said, condemn sexual exploitation and abuse of children and therefore urges all stakeholders to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. She emphasised that the ‘Eseng mo ngwaneng’ campaign which was launched in 2018 was part of efforts to raise awareness of the sexual abuse and sex exploitation of children in Botswana.
“The message is still clear, Eseng mo ngwaneng,” said Ng’inja. She believes that school closures and movement restrictions are disrupting children’s routines and support systems. “Some parents are struggling to care for their children and the protection risks for children are mounting,” she said. UNICEF therefore urges all stakeholders including; authorities, families, caregivers and communities to take concrete steps to ensure that protection of children is an integral part of COVID-19 prevention and response measures.
This, she says include training health, education and child services staff on COVID-19 related and child protection risks, including sexual exploitation and abuse as well as how to safely report concerns, training first responders on how to manage disclosure of violence against children and collaborate with healthcare services to support violence survivors and engage children, particularly adolescents in assessing how COVID-19 affects them differently to inform programming and advocacy.
Botswana Police Service is also looking into this issue and has introduced a toll free number for victims to report at the comfort of their homes. The expectation is to curb the alarming rates of gender based violence.
The toll free number is 0800 600 144.