UNICEF event highlights pandemic effects on children

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By Poojaraj Maniyeri

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – Two United Nations Children’s Fund speakers discussed the adverse impact of COVID-19 on child psychosocial wellbeing in an online collaborative workshop for American University of Sharjah students held by the Big Heart Foundation and UNICEF on Feb. 1. 

Saji Thomas, chief of child protection of the UNICEF Gulf Area Office said that there is an evident link between mental health issues and online activity. COVID-19 has led to children’s increased online presence and increased the likelihood of the negative impact on their mental health, said Thomas. 

Online engagement can also be filled with opportunities, he added. 

Thomas said that the stigma around mental health must be broken and “people should talk about mental health issues just like they do about physical health issues.”

Teona Aslanishvili, child protection specialist in the UNICEF regional office of Amman, said that migrating children face a variety of issues ranging from family separation, discrimination and lack of access to basic facilities to restrictive border policies and immigration detention.

 COVID-19 has worsened the situation and many migrants are “stranded and unable to go home but also unable to work and earn remittances for the family,” said Aslanishvili. 

Immigration detention must be replaced by safer measures, countries and regions must work together and “pathways must become safe and welcoming in terms of access to facilities and lack of discrimination,” said Aslanishvili.