Adapting our activities to protect children in times of a health crisis

In recent months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has invariably impacted our countries of intervention. Because the protection of children and the promotion of their rights cannot stop, especially in times of health crisis, we have had to take measures and adapt our ways of doing things to continue to accomplish our mission while ensuring the protection of our teams and partners. 

The current health situation is disrupting our daily lives and reminds us how fragile the progress made in terms of children’s rights is. The systems supposed to protect children have shown their limits in the face of this crisis and must adapt more than ever. Our interventions are all the more necessary as this unstable context is likely to continue over the long term. This is why we have had to find alternative solutions to continue our actions while protecting the stakeholders of our teams and projects.

Six months ago, the Bureau presented its exceptional provisions to you in a dedicated article. It is clear that the exceptional nature of these measures is fading as the pandemic continues to unfold.

Thanks to a dedicated unit, the Office is constantly on the lookout for developments regarding the spread of the virus and the measures adopted by governments. In this way, we adapt ourselves on a daily basis to the specific situation in each of our countries of intervention:

  • In Burkina Faso, the spread of the virus was quickly controlled, allowing our team to gradually return to the Office after a period of teleworking. Activities such as workshops to disseminate the procedure guides or training courses were able to resume in June, in compliance with the distancing and protection measures.
  • In Canada: our team now works mainly from home, according to government guidelines, and everyone is given the opportunity to come to our offices on a voluntary basis according to a clearly established protocol. 
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Covid-19 has had a major impact on the country, forcing the authorities to take drastic containment measures. The Office team therefore adapted and worked remotely for a few months, while project activities involving travel or meetings were de facto put on hold. The situation improved over the summer and activities were able to resume, including the collection of data relating to the project, which is now entering its final months of implementation.

  • In Honduras, the situation remains difficult and the virus continues to circulate, despite the draconian measures adopted by the government over the summer. The country is still on red alert, and travel restrictions are in place for the entire population. The team on the ground has therefore been working remotely since March, and has had to adapt its methods and project activities accordingly, in order to continue making progress in its implementation. Numerous meetings have taken place thanks to the digital tools, workshops, steering committees and bilateral meetings taking place virtually (see our dedicated article).

  • As the missions are limited, we have given maximum priority to local anchoring for our shorter projects. We have therefore called on local expert professionals to carry out the actions inherent to our projects in Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Burundi, with piloting from Montreal, and thus be able to move forward on the path towards an environment that is more respectful of children’s rights in these countries.
  • In order to study the possibility of resuming international travel in complete safety, we have carried out a reflection, in collaboration with the SUCO organisation, which has enabled us to define a process and tools to analyse in detail the international context and the health situation in our countries of involvement at all times. This analysis will be the basis for any deployment of our staff as well as possible volunteers under our volunteer cooperation programme in the coming months (more information here).

In general :

  • Distance, traffic and health protection measures have been put in place in all our premises to protect our staff as much as possible.
  • Missions are limited to essential travel for the smooth running of the Bureau’s activities and projects.
  • Most of the meetings are conducted virtually, particularly in Canada and Honduras.
  • No physical events are planned for the coming months.
  • Internships have resumed almost normally within the Montreal team, but are now carried out remotely, through teleworking.

We are also strongly mobilising alongside other organisations to raise public awareness and question the authorities on the need to protect children from all walks of life, such as children deprived of their liberty or children detained in Syria or in armed conflicts

As the situation in the countries in which we operate can sometimes change rapidly, the measures outlined above may need to evolve in the coming days and weeks.

At this time and more than ever, the protection of children must remain at the heart of everyone’s priorities. To help them understand this pandemic and protect them from its less visible effects, we invite you to reread our guide “Covid-19: resources to best handle the situation with children“. 

© Image by Louisa Helfinger, Pixabay