SHADOW PANDEMIC: Urgent need for action for violence against women, children, says PAHO

SHADOW PANDEMIC: Urgent need for action for violence against women, children, says PAHO

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — There is an urgent need for action on violence against women and children who continue to be victims of abuse amid the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent restrictions of movement, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne.

“In the context of COVID-19, what we have seen is increased urgency for action on violence in the home, especially against women and their children.

“Violence against women is a major public health and human right challenge in the Americas with enormous health, social and economic consequences.

Director Dr Carissa Etienne

“Due to the lockdowns and other movement restrictions to combat the pandemic women and their children who are already living with violence are at particular risk as they are spending more time in the home.

“Research by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projected 15 million extra cases of gender-based violence globally for every three months of lockdown.

“Staggering numbers. A WHO health survey showed that 39 percent of countries globally reported disruptions to services for intimate partner and sexual violence prevention and response services.

“During the pandemic, many women have been forced to leave their jobs to take care of their families

Studies show that reports of abuse, including online abuse directed towards women, girls and members of the LGBTQ community, as well as nonbinary people and other marginalized groups have risen during the pandemic, which has been ongoing for nearly two years.

The issue was placed under the spotlight once again in The Bahamas with the death of a four-year-old, who suffered blunt force trauma resulting in numerous fractures at the alleged hands of a man whom her mother left in his care.

Both the mother and man were arrested and charged — the mother with cruelty to children and the man with murder and cruelty to children.

There was public outrage at the death and pledges from politicians to do more to protect victims of abuse, particularly children who have been particularly vulnerable.

Calls for protection gained renewed attention in recent weeks.

Yesterday, various civic organizations participated in the Women United “Stop the Violence March” from Fort Charlotte to Rawson Square with a cry for justice following a spate of violent domestic disputes.

Years after legislation was passed to introduce an alert system for missing children, the final component of MARCO (Mandatory Aggressive Action for Rescuing Children Operation) Alert was launched on Monday with successful testing of broadcast messages to Samsung phones.

The alert system is expected to be able to reach other platform such as iPhone in the near future, allowing citizens to be alerted across The Bahamas electronically when a child goes missing to heighten public awareness and increase the probability of their safe return.

Today is recognized as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.