MANILA - United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) urged the Philippine government to ensure the protection and safety of children during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a statement released Tuesday, UNICEF Philippines expressed its support to the government's initiatives to contain the spread of the disease, while emphasizing that such measures "should always be in the best interest of the child."
“In times of emergency, children are already confused and distressed from the fear and anxiety brought by the uncertainty of the spread of disease. We encourage the government to apply child-friendly protocols in the implementation of community quarantine and ensure that all measures taken to protect children respond to their best interest,” said Patrizia Benvenuti, Chief of Child Protection of UNICEF Philippines.
UNICEF and its partners urged government officials to train health, education and child services staff on COVID-19 related child protection risks, which include prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The government should likewise ensure that children will not be arrested and that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act is respected.
UNICEF also said there should be concrete measures to prevent a child's separation from family, as well as ensure support for children left alone due to the hospitalization or death of a parent or guardian.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Luzon - the country's most populous island group - under a month-long lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As of March 24 afternoon, the global pandemic, which originated from Wuhan, China, has infected 552 patients in the Philippines. Of those infected, 35 died, while 20 recovered.