Thousands of children in many countries have lost one or both their parents since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The questions now being asked and whose solutions are sought by governments, civil society organizations and international community include:
. Who will look after these children?
. What does the future hold in store for these vulnerable kids?
According to the just released analysis of the UNICEF, Covid-19 has ravaged many countries and it has been particularly heart-wrenching to children who are now orphans or abandoned.
The report said the outsized impact that Covid-19 has had on women in some countries could result in an additional 10million child marriages in this decade.
UNICEF said school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.
According to the UNICEF study titled Covid-19: A threat to progress against child marriage said that trend, if confirmed, would represent a serious retreat from recent years of progress against child marriage.
Women in Zanzibar have not been spared out. The pandemic has not only affected their pace of development, but also disrupted and wrecked some families, especially those of low-income earners.
There have been reports of some marriages tearing off because the couples have quarreled over the declining income in the families.
This has resulted with some very serious consequences, including reversing the gains made in the campaign against the violation of women and children’s rights and accelerated children’s abandonment.
This is contrary to the domestic policies and international treaties like The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) that guarantees women equal protection and benefit of the law.
Salama Masoud, a resident of Kiwengwa in Unguja North Region said she has been separated from her husband, with whom they lived together for seven years, leaving behind three children.
She blamed the Covid-19 outbreak as the main source of her husband’s income drop and after realising that she was not unable to look after his family he decided to abandon the family.
“He was a hotel staff here (Kiwengwa). After the outbreak of the Covid-19, everything was disrupted. Many people including my husband lost their jobs. We lived in hardships until we separated,” she told the Mail.
“He left me with three children and I have no alternative, but to take care of them, with the help of my parents in very difficult conditions. The coronavirus has really made life difficult for most women and children,” she said.
Salama represents many women and children who have experienced the trauma and sufferings, some of them beyond any explanation, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Raya (15), a form two student at Mahonda Secondary School, lives with her grandmother after her parents separated more than nine months now because of hard life caused by the Covid-19.
She narrated with deep sorrow how her parents were involved in an endless domestic quarrel because of the decline of her father’s daily earnings.
“We were a middle-income family. My father was working at the Mahonda Sugar Factory, but after the Covid-19 outbreak production was suspended. The government banned public gatherings as a measure to contain the spread of the virus. It was then that my father and his workmates were fired,” she said.
She said after three months their family life changed and they had to seek assistance for the daily bread from the relatives.
“Eventually, my parents separated. My grandmother took care of me and my young siblings are with my mother. However, sometimes my father brings some food,” she said with a sorrowful tone that forces one to sympathies with the helpless child.
Though a recent report titled Zanzibar in Figure 2020 was silent on reported cases of children abandonment, reports from civil societies which defend the rights of women and children show that more than 80 women and children were abandoned from January to December 2020.
However, the Zanzibar in Figure 2020 report indicates that 64 rape cases of women over the age of 18, but it did not give any indication if it is related to the difficult life caused by the Covid-19.
Sophia Ngalapi, Policy and Advocacy Manager of the Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa-Zanzibar), acknowledged that Covid-19 has had adverse effects on human rights, including those of women.
“There are women who have been abandoned because of the declining family incomes and there are those who have been raped. Some women are now going through a lot of frustrations and no doubt the outbreak of Covid-19 as badly affected women and children’s development pace and the situation could be worse if early measures to rectify the situation are not taken,” she added.
The government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus include the provision of vaccination which is initially focused on special groups, such as health workers.