The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but children’s lives have drastically changed because of the measures that were taken in response to the virus. They stand to lose in ways that are not usually centered in discussions related to the pandemic, as they face a greater risk of contracting the virus while their families scramble to soften the pandemic’s impact on their livelihoods. 

This year’s National Children’s Month led by the Council for the Welfare of Children, National Youth Commission and Department of Social Welfare and Development  recognizes these unprecedented challenges as it focuses on upholding children’s rights during a pandemic, with the theme “Sama-samang Itaguyod Ang Karapatan ng Bawat Bata sa Panahon ng Pandemya.”

This call is especially relevant for Bangsamoro children who have lived through violence and conflict, and had to adapt to poverty and oppression most children outside of the region have never experienced. The socioeconomic burdens that are linked to the quarantine, including the loss of income due to limited movement and increase in expenses due to a heightened dependence on online technologies needed for work and learning, may cause stress and anxiety among families and places children at greater risk of domestic and gender-based violence that were already a concern prior to the pandemic.

For this reason, Minority Floor Leader Laisa Alamia laid down proposals drafted by the minority bloc at the onset of the pandemic, outlining policy and program considerations in response to Covid-19. It includes a series of protective interventions and social amelioration programs to ensure access to health services, emergency relief and aid. It also includes proposals to support livelihoods and allocate funds for wage subsidies and crisis recovery measures. Support for small and mid-size enterprises was also sought through empowering banks to provide incentives and loans with very small interests to businesses that have closed down due to the pandemic.

Covid-19 is a serious threat that places children’s rights and protections at risk. While imposing restrictions and limiting movement is necessary to ensure their safety, it is also necessary to address the mental and emotional toll the pandemic response may be inflicting on children across the region. Providing comfort and psychosocial support in the midst of the pandemic must also be prioritized, along with other basic social services that are necessary to support children and their families throughout the pandemic.

MP Alamia has consistently supported programs with these same goals, the most recent being the “Festival of Love and Peace” organized by Save the Children of War – Mindanao in Tabuan-Lasa, Basilan. Health workers were present and safety protocols were observed during the two-day event held last October 3, as children participated in art therapy sessions and were given tools they need in recovering from experiences of trauma and violence. MP Alamia donated bikes, badminton sets, and jump ropes that were given to participants of the said event.

Among the children who received a bike was Sherhana who said that she was “happy and grateful,” especially since her wish for a bike came true, as hundreds of other wishes were granted that day through the joint efforts of Save the Children of War and the Office of the Minority Floor Leader.