Children weighed down by mental health challenges

According to the Office of the First Lady, many more mental health issues and cases of self-harm have been recorded amongst Namibian children, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on.

21 December 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES





WINDHOEK

Namibian children have been hit hardest by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which robbed them of safe spaces and locked them into abusive homes where they were caught in the middle of domestic disputes.

This according to the Office of the First Lady, which has, since the advent of the pandemic, had its hands full dealing with cases involving children.

With the country struggling to deal with the colossal effects of the pandemic, Dr Veronica Theron, technical director of the Office of the First Lady, said she has witnessed an increase in custody battles which left many children ‘torn in the middle’, not wanting to choose one parent.

“Besides the neglect and abuse of children, they have now also become part of the fight between mother and father or spouses. I have observed that there are a lot of more divorces and we know what separations and divorces do to children. I have worked with a lot of custody battles where children are absolutely torn, but the marriages are done,” she said.

The economic downturn, which resulted in retrenchments, also trickled down to families whose income streams were disrupted, leaving children without food to eat.

Theron said many children are yet to be informed of the death of their parents or grandparents during the devastating third wave which left many orphaned, because of cultural beliefs.

“These things are not explained to them and with the death of loved ones, children are absolutely shut out. There are small children who after three months ask ‘when is mommy coming from the funeral?’ There are still cultures where children are not part of the rituals and many of them do not even go to the funeral themselves… so they still hope that their parents or grandparents will come back.

“We have also picked up a lot of – more than usual - mental health issues and self-harm tendencies amongst children who lost a grandparent who was like their parents,” she said.

Deepened suffering

The latest United Nations Children's Fund report - titled ‘Preventing a lost decade’ - found that the Covid-19 pandemic is the worst crisis for children in the fund’s 75-year history. Just two years into the pandemic has deepened poverty, inequality and suffering of children the world over, it said.

In less than 24 months, 100 million more children have fallen into the poverty trap, bringing the world to a crossroad between protecting and expanding the gains made for child rights over the years, or suffering the consequences of reversed progress and a lost decade for today’s children and young people.

Meanwhile, an increase in violence towards children - largely because of the closure of schools and safe spaces due to the pandemic - has also been reported.

The report stated that children have been cut off from many of the positive and supportive relationships they rely on when in distress, including at school, in the extended family or the community.

“At the peak of the pandemic, 1.8 billion children lived in the 104 countries where violence prevention and response services were seriously disrupted. While the immediate health crisis will eventually wane, the impact of violence and trauma in childhood can last a lifetime”, and will likely feature “serious social and economic costs”.

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