The Committee on the Rights of the Child warns of the grave physical, emotional
and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and calls on
States to protect the rights of children


The Committee on the Rights of the Child expresses concern about the situation of
children globally, particularly those in situations of vulnerability, due to the effects of
the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children are gravely affected physically, emotionally
and psychologically, especially in countries that have declared states of emergencies
and mandatory lockdowns.


In addition to the declaration of ten human rights treaty bodies, the Committee further
urges States to respect the rights of the child in taking measures to tackle the public
health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the Committee calls on
States to:

  1. Consider the health, social, educational, economic and recreational impacts
    of the pandemic on the rights of the child. Although initially declared for short
    terms, it becomes clear that declarations of States of emergencies and/or disaster
    may be maintained for longer periods, leading to longer periods of restrictions on
    the enjoyment of human rights. The Committee recognizes that in crisis situations,
    international human rights law exceptionally permits measures that may restrict
    the enjoyment of certain human rights in order to protect public health. However,
    such restrictions must be imposed only when necessary, be proportionate and
    kept to an absolute minimum. Additionally, while acknowledging that the COVID19 pandemic may have a significant and adverse impact on the availability of
    financial resources, these difficulties should not be regarded as an impediment to
    the implementation of the Convention. Nevertheless, States should ensure that
    responses to the pandemic, including restrictions and decisions on allocation of
    resources, reflect the principle of the best interests of the child.
  2. Explore alternative and creative solutions for children to enjoy their rights
    to rest, leisure, recreation and cultural and artistic activities. Such solutions
    should include supervised outdoor activities at least once a day which respect
    physical distance protocols and other hygiene standards, and child-friendly
    cultural and artistic activities on TV, radio and online.
  3. Ensure that online learning does not exacerbate existing inequalities or
    replace student-teacher interaction. Online learning is a creative alternative to
    classroom learning but poses challenges for children who have limited or no
    access to technology or the Internet or do not have adequate parental support.
    Alternative solutions should be available for such children to benefit from the
    guidance and support provided by teachers.
  4. Activate immediate measures to ensure that children are fed nutritious food
    during the period of emergency, disaster or lockdown, as many children receive
    their only nutritious meal through school feeding schemes.
  5. Maintain the provision of basic services for children including healthcare,
    water, sanitation and birth registration. Despite the increasing pressure on
    health systems and the scarcity of resources, children should not be denied
    access to health care, including to testing and a potential future vaccine, to
    COVID-19 – related and COVID-19 – unrelated medical treatment, mental health
    services and treatment for pre-existing conditions. Children should also have
    access to clean water and sanitation facilities during the period of emergency,
    disaster or lockdown. Birth registration services should not be suspended.
  6. Define core child protection services as essential and ensure that they
    remain functioning and available, including home visits when necessary,
    and provide professional mental health services for children living in
    lockdown. Confinement may expose children to increased physical and
    psychological violence at home, or force children to stay in homes that are
    overcrowded and lack the minimum conditions of habitability. Children with
    disabilities and behavioural problems, as well as their families, may face additional
    difficulties behind closed doors. States should strengthen phone and online
    reporting and referral systems as well as sensitization and awareness activities
    through TV, radio and online channels. Strategies to mitigate the economic and
    social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic should also include specific measures
    to protect children, particularly those living in poverty and lacking access to
    adequate housing.
  7. Protect children whose vulnerability is further increased by the exceptional
    circumstances caused by the pandemic. These include children with
    disabilities; children living in poverty; children in street situations; migrant, asylumseeking, refugee and internally displaced children; minority and indigenous
    children; children with underlying health conditions including HIV/AIDS; children
    deprived of their liberty or confined in police lock-up facilities, prisons, secure care
    centres, migrant detention centres or camps; and children living in institutions.
    States should respect the right of every child to non-discrimination in its measures
    to address the COVID-19 pandemic as well as take targeted measures to protect
    children in vulnerable situations.
  8. Release children in all forms of detention, whenever possible, and provide
    children who cannot be released with the means to maintain regular contact
    with their families. Many States have adopted measures to restrict visits and
    contact opportunities for children living in institutions or deprived of their liberty,
    including children confined in police institutions, prisons, secure centres, migration
    detention centres or camps. While these restrictive measures can be seen as
    necessary in the short term, over long periods they will have a marked negative
    effect on children. Children should at all times be allowed to maintain regular
    contact with their families, and if not in person, through electronic communication
    or telephone. If the period of emergency, disaster or State-ordered confinement is
    extended, consideration should be given to reassessing the measures that prohibit
    such visits. Children in migration situations should not be detained nor separated
    from their parents if accompanied.
  9. Prevent the arrest or detention of children for violating State guidance and
    directives relating to COVID-19, and ensure that any child who was arrested or
    detained is immediately returned to his or her family.
  10. Disseminate accurate information about COVID-19 and how to prevent
    infection in languages and formats that are child-friendly and accessible to
    all children including children with disabilities, migrant children and children with
    limited access to the Internet.
  11. Provide opportunities for children’s views to be heard and taken into
    account in decision-making processes on the pandemic. Children should
    understand what is happening and feel that they are taking part in the decisions
    that are being made in response to the pandemic.
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