We recently celebrated the Day of the African Child on June 16 and being a child parliamentarian, I see this as a big day for all of Africa’s children and more so for the children of Djibouti. Since I am their voice in Parliament I can say we are dismayed by the situation we are going through because of COVID-19, which is worse still for most children who do not have birth certificates
We welcome the salutary measures decreed by the political and health authorities to protect us from this misfortune of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the African child in general, and the Djiboutian in particular, find themselves bound by this pandemic. Among other measures, the closure of our schools, mosques, which are environments where as children we receive a healthy and adapted education as stipulated in article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has made us more prone and vulnerable to abuse than before.
Many of us are not protected as recommended, and the authorities are not providing the accompanying measures to benefit the Djiboutian child. We have learnt and witnessed unwanted situations, several children roam everywhere across (open fields, child vendors in markets) and with this deconfinement they do not have any protection against COVID-19.
Our government with the support of partners has set up distance education to keep us busy during this time when the schools are closed. Most online learning platforms are only benefitting a small number because it is exclusive and not all of us can access these platforms. Power supply is not reliable in many communities despite the efforts of Djibouti Energy, the lack of of computer devices, the poor supervision by parents and general lack of interest in certain children.
This pandemic is a scourge of the century and has caused so much misfortune thus trampling on our fundamental rights laid down by the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
- We are discriminated against at the very level where adults no longer regard us as a vulnerable group which requires special attention (article 2);
- Our health is in danger and we risk death (article 24);
- Our schools are closed and we do not know until when (article 28);
- We are deprived of group games while we have the right to leisure (article 31);
- We regret to see that all the measures decreed by the competent authority were taken without having associated the participation of the child directly or through the institutions and associations which take care of our development (article 15) .
We call upon the responsible ministry responsible for the welfare of children to prioritise our health and avail us with the appropriate kit to protect us from the pandemic and to take the best measures to guarantee us continued education while protecting us from contracting COVID-19.
Ilwad is a Child Parliamentarian with the Parliament of Djibouti. She is a committed youth leader who has mobilized a number of young Djiboutian’s to change makers in their own communities and be the voice of the voiceless.