Protecting women, children 'essential aspect' of virus response, Indonesian minister says

Life shield: A nurse puts a face shield on a newborn baby at RSIA Tambak Hospital in Central Jakarta on April 16.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Steadfast commitment to the well-being of women and children is an essential aspect of the nation's Covid-19 response, the government has said, as many families remain confined to their homes during the health emergency.

Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga has called on families not to underestimate the importance of consistent communication and supervision among family members, especially children, in these uncertain times.

"We must take it upon ourselves to provide a safe and secure space where children are able to grow regardless of the circumstances," Bintang said during a National Children's day ceremony streamed on the ministry's YouTube channel on Wednesday.

This year's National Children's Day, which falls on July 23, will provide a moment, Bintang said, to increase public awareness about child welfare, especially as a large share of the nation's resources was redirected to the Covid-19 response.

According to the ministry's Women and Child Protection Database (SIMFONI), nearly 4,000 cases of violence against women and children were reported from the beginning of January to July 17.

During the same event, Executive Office of the President undersecretary on human development Abetnego Tarigan said the government had launched a family-oriented telecounseling service called SEJIWA, which can be contacted at 119.

"We launched SEJIWA because there has been so much pressure on families. From June 10 to July 10, 59 per cent of complaints we received were related to childcare," Abetnego said.

Concerns have been raised before about child welfare during the pandemic. According to the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), the number of children suffering from malnutrition could spike in Indonesia as the government shifts its focus to stem the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Furthermore, UNICEF warned that job losses, an overloaded healthcare system and limited access to food during the current health crisis could exacerbate the already poor living conditions of children deemed most susceptible to stunting and wasting.

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