Violence Against Women and Children in the Context of COVID-19
The Mental Health and Substance Use Unit, in collaboration with the PAHO Caribbean Program Coordination (CPC) Office, hosted a virtual seminar as part of the Caribbean Mental Health Roster MHPSS and COVID-19 biweekly webinar series. The topic discussed was violence against women and children (VAWC) in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.
To discuss violence against women and children (VAWC) in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced lifetime physical and/or sexual violence, with the most common form being intimate partner violence. The physical and mental health consequences of these types of violence are substantial. Violence against women tends to increase during every kind of emergency, including epidemics, making it important for countries in the Region to be aware of and prepare to address this issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the isolation and physical distancing measures widely recommended to prevent the spread of the virus have a particularly acute impact on women and children experiencing family violence. This can be explained by an increase in the risk factors for violence (e.g. stress, economic worries, alcohol), and a decrease in protective factors, including social support and access to protection services.
The health sector plays an important role in preventing and addressing VAWC during the pandemic. VAWC services should be framed as essential services during COVID-19 pandemic, and funded accordingly. Health facilities can identify and provide information about services available locally for survivors, as well as strengthen online service delivery – including mHealth and telehealth. Frontline healthcare providers should know the risks and consequences of violence in the context of COVID19 and how to identify women and children subject to violence, provide first line support and appropriate medical treatment, and consider mental health assessment and care.
As community members, we must all be aware of the increased risk of violence during this time, acknowledge that violence is never justified, and support survivors of this violence in safe ways.
Britta Baer, PAHO Advisor on Violence and Injury Prevention.