SRSG Maalla M’jid highlights the importance of protecting children’s mental health and wellbeing during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic at launch of #CovidUnder19 initiative

New York, 9 December 2020 - The results of the global consultation survey #CovidUnder19: Life Under Coronavirus to understand children’s experiences and views during the coronavirus pandemic were presented at a global virtual event featuring children as keynote speakers.

The high-level event also counted on the participation of SRSG Najat Maalla M’jid, Member States, Academia and civil society representatives in a lively and engaging session. 

The results cover a wide range of topics related to children’s experiences during the COVID19 crisis, their views about family life, education, safety and violence, representation, participation, information and poverty. "Take young people’s opinion into consideration, because they are also a part of the community and they should have the right to express themselves," said a 17-year-old boy from Lebanon in the #CovidUnder19 survey.

The results from the U-Report poll, that used social media to reach-out to respondents, show that children have been using peer-to-peer support as a way to to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. 62% of children said that their friends have helped when they needed emotional or personal support and 58% responded that friends have reached out to them more seeking to provide support since the pandemic started.

However, 38% of the young respondents answered that they felt less safe than before and 50.2% did not know where to ask for help if needed. On the questions about violence online, 43% of the children respondent that they had more negative experiences online than before and cyberbullying was chosen noted as the "worst form of violence online" and the one that has increased the most. Almost 90% children expressed concern about their future, mainly in matters related to their education and safety. When asked about future plans for after the crisis, 46.6% expressed the wish to helping their family and over 21% said that they would like to be involved with groups or communities, showing children’s true commitment and interest in being part of the solution during the recovery period after the pandemic.   

As one of the co-organizers of the initiative, Special Representative Maalla M'jid stressed that the pandemic shows that mental health and the wellbeing of children should be a priority in the response to the pandemic crisis including through effective child protection policies that must include psycho social support that is now needed "more than ever before". 

Dr. Maalla M'jid also highlighted the critical importance of peer-to-peer support children and young people provided during the crisis, which is “inspiring to all of us and will certainly play an important role in building long-term counselling initiatives aiming to strengtheni the mental wellbeing of children and the communities they are apart of”. 

The #CovidUnder19: Life Under Coronavirus initiative was launched in the spring of 2020 to create a space for children across the globe to be meaningfully involved in the discussion of issues triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute towards shaping the post-COVID19 world.

The survey was developed by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children in collaboration with international partners including Terre des hommes, Centre for Children’s Rights, Queen’s University Belfast, Teens4world and children from 28 countries at all stages including drawing conclusions and developing key messages. It received an overwhelming response of 26,258 children and young people from 137 countries across the world. 

“Through meaningful participation, children provided a clear path for change and demonstrated that they are ready to contribute to shape a new world with solutions. This initiative showed that multi-stakeholder cooperation can work. And the post pandemic world will undoubtedly need us all.  Let us work together to build a strong and comprehensive protection system, with the necessary policies and legislation, with the necessary human and financial resources for its implementation is a win-win approach. Violence costs governments and societies many times more than the cost of preventing violence. “said Special Representative Maalla M'jid in her closing remarks.