“This pandemic is a perfect storm for abuse to happen in the home. The long quarantine has trapped the children at home where most of the abuses happen. It is very difficult for them to seek help. The stresses for both the children and their parents have increased mental health problems. Add on unemployment, insecurity, uncertainty while cooped up in a small space, it has all the ingredients for an ‘explosion.’ These abused children need urgent help and time may be running out for them.” — Dr. Bernadette Madrid, Child Protection Network Executive Director
“The first child protection unit in the Philippines started in a small, refurbished canteen in PGH (Philippine General Hospital). We are now 114 units in 57 provinces and 10 cities in the country. It is so fulfilling to help children — as many as we can. With the help of all generous souls, we can establish more units, train more child protection specialists and help more children.” — Katrina Legarda, Director, National Network of Women and Child Protection Units
Our first instinct is to protect our young children and the youth who are vulnerable to the hazards and dangers in life. There have been many disasters in the past years. The children of marginalized families are constantly exposed to predators of all kinds. In many cases, the men who live with them in their homes are among the worst offenders. This crisis happens around the world.
The Philippines, a developing country, has alarming statistics of child abuse and trafficking caused by poverty, broken families, and cramped living spaces. Among the major concerns are the access to health services for physical and mental health, adequate nutrition, and safety. The pandemic has exacerbated the risky and volatile situation.
Thousands of young children need non-government organizations (NGOs) for care and necessary support throughout their growing years.
Since the start, the Child Protection Network (CPN) has worked with experts on the prevention and treatment of child abuse. From 90 abused children seen at UP Philippine General Hospital Child Protection Unit (PGH-CPU) in 1997, the number has increased to more than 100 abused children availing of services per month. This unit has treated more that 24,778 children.
It is regarded as an example of Best Practice by the World Health Organization.
Through the years, CPN has had partnerships with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Kindernothilfe (KNH) to support the Women and Children Protection Units; Consuelo Foundation for the Safe Schools Study and Evidence for Better Lives Study; and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for the Child Protections Management Information System, research initiatives, and the annual Ako Para sa Bata Conference.
In 2019, there were 1,355 cases reported to the PGH-CPU. A staggering 75% cases were sexual abuse. This result happened after the 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in the Philippines (NBS-VAC). Physical and psychological abuse are increasing. However, the cases are probably underreported.
Dr. Madrid explained, “COVID plus abuse is more than awhat our children can bear. With the ongoing pandemic, we have increasing suicides and suicide attempts by the patients that we see at the PGH Child Protection Unit. COVID has increased violence and has also exacerbated the impact of the abuse.”
The current projects in response to COVID are:
1) Telemedicine /Teleconsultation in partnership with UNICEF and UP Manila. All CPU services are offered: medical, social, psychological, legal. The appointments can be scheduled in 55 hotspot barangays in 13 cities in the National Capital Region and Cavite. They are digital hubs for teleconsultation with PGH CPU;
2) Child Helpline in partnership with UNICEF;
3) Web-based Database in partnership with the UNFPA and the Department of Health;
4) Online Training on Child Protection for All Sectors in partnership with the National Teachers Training Center, UP Manila, UNFPA, DPH, and ICTSI.
Here are some important quotes from the Trustees.
“Now that we are mostly homebound these days, with the pandemic in our midst. It struck a chord with me that not all homes are safe havens. For others, is a nightmare scene with no respite (with face-to-face classes on hold). Our work at CPN never ends, now more than ever we need to help those trapped in these terrible circumstances. We need to HELP STOP THE ABUSE.” — Lizzy Razon, trustee
“It is such a privilege to be able to serve on the Board of CPN. The foundation’s mission to provide medical, psycho-social, and legal counseling and assistance to abused children is more pressing than ever amidst the challenges brought on by the pandemic lockdowns. We fervently hope to raise the much-needed funds to make it possible to continue this essential work to help abused children in our country.” — Mia Borromeo, trustee
“I think that it’s essential that we help these abused kids get treatment. Your donation will aid a child through dark days… so please do share your blessings and let’s give generously.” — Irene Martel-Francisco, CPN President
The CPN Board Trustees members are Irene Martel-Francisco, Renna Hechanova-Angeles, Mia Borromeo, Alice G. Eduardo, Lizzy Razon, Mons Romulo, Julio Dy Sy, Jr., and Johnny L. Velasquez.
This year, CPN is raising funds to help support 500 children. For every P8,000, one boy or one girl will have access to a year of medical and mental treatment. For information about donations, contact the Child Protection Network Foundation, Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone number (+632) 8404-3954.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.