Childline Kenya provides child protection services through ICT innovations. We manage the only national child helpline service available for free by dialing 116 from anywhere in Kenya 24/7. Since the set up of the Child Helpline in Kenya in 2006, the highest reported form of child abuse was child neglect consistently. This narrative has since changed with the onset of COVID-19. In this season, defilement cases have skyrocketed, accounting for at least 63 new cases reported every month! This is alarming! Sadly, these cases are perpetrateed by people within the family and people well known to the children. With the self quarantine arrangements and working from home requirements, some children have found themselves confined in the same space with their "would be" abusers for prolonged periods with no breaks to report their concerns to their teachers or other adults as would have been the case if they were going to school or to religious institutions.
In response to this concern, there is need to sensitize the children on the available online based reporting platforms including the Helpline 116. As the children participate in online learning they should also be aware that they can use the online platforms to report abuse. In addition, they can raise the red flag with their peers, religious leaders and other trusted adults...including the teachers when they are facilitating e-learning, so that help is sought for them immediately it is required.
With support from Childline's donors and philanthropists we have been able to engage additional counselors to increase the capacity of the helpline to respond to more cases. The increase in couselors has translated to a big increase in reported cases and therefore case resolution for example between January to March 335 cases were handled. This increased to 628 cases in April to June and further increased to 962 between July and September 962.
Childline, with support from state and non-state partners, including the GlobalGiving community, has also begun actively developing messages to promote the Helpline service on social media while also sharing information on various topical issues in child protection. This is meant to provide needed infromation in the public with regard to child protection but most importantly encourage reporting of child protection concerns for resolution.
Helpline Counselor responding to children's Issues
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested humanity in every way possible. The measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus have led to various disruptions in all spheres of life, ultimately affecting individuals, communities and the world at large. In early May 2020, child welfare organizations warned that the COVID-19 lockdown measures will increase cases of child maltreatment. This includes the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect of any person under 18 years old.
The first COVID-19 case in Kenya was reported in March 2020. This was followed by measures such as closure of schools and colleges, restrictions of public gatherings including places of worship, curfew that ceased movement between 7:00 p.m. and 4.00 a.m., stringent safety measures on all institutions in the economic and social sectors. There was also a worldwide call for individuals to #stayhome to control the virus.
Childline Kenya, through the child helpline 116, has noted an increase in the child abuse reports since the enforcement of the measures to control the spread of the virus. Child Abuse reports from March to June 2020 have increased by 41% to 531 compared to a period of 4 months (November 2019 to February 2020) before the onset of COVID-19 in Kenya where 376 cases of violence against children were reported. The highest number of reported cases are defilement, child neglect and physical abuse which account for more than 71% of all reported cases. This is alarming!
Clearly the COVID- 19 crisis and resulting containment measures have had a drastic effect on the economic sector. The massive loss of jobs and livelihoods has affected the economic power of individuals to provide basic needs for themselves and their families. This has contributed to the raising cases in child neglect. Though reports of child maintenance and neglect were rampant pre-COVID the pandemic has evidently exacerbated the situation.
The closure of schools has also contributed to the increase in child abuse cases. Children have more time at home. Helpline data reveals that 60% of perpetrators of child abuse are close relations to the child. In Kenya, schools are set to resume in 2021. Children will be spending more time at home with little to no structure in their days and with the breakdown of social structures they are at risk of abuse. Some of the children are now forced to #stayhome with the perpetrators.
Children are the unseen victims of the pandemic. The rights of children are being overlooked as nations turn their attention to fighting the pandemic. Despite the pandemic, children’s rights must stand. Children still have rights. At Childline Kenya, we continue to fight for children’s rights. We work 24/7 through the national child helpline 116 service to offer psychosocial support to children as they deal with the pandemic and the issues that emerge as a result of the pandemic. Through the helpline, Childline provides psychosocial support including counselling, child therapy and family therapy. We work with partners to provide access to medication, safe shelter, legal aid, education support, reunification with families and reintegration. Childline also actively educates the public on child safety, working with key government agencies and child protection partners in all the 47 counties. All this is possible with support from development partners and individuals of goodwill.
We would like to thank our donors for your generous contributions to the work of Childline Kenya. We need each other now more than ever to Shine A Light on Child Abuse. Continue partnering with us to keep a child safe from abuse and leave no child behind in child protection.
Internet is our current reality globally.In the course of our work Childline Kenya engages with children who are at risk of exploitation and those who are victims of exploitation on the online space as well. In the past one year than 205 such cases have been reported with girls seemingly more vulnerable than boys. This quarter we present one of the cases we have handled related to child online safety with support from our donors including the GlobalGiving community.
A 15-year-old orphaned girl lives with an uncle and his family in Kisumu County. She is in class 6 at a local primary school. Her guardians presented her to the children’s office with the concern that she had a habit of running away and disappearing from home for several days at a time. During interrogation she revealed that she owned a smart phone, which her guardians knew nothing about, and which she hides at a friend’s place. Through this phone she was able to access internet and various social media platforms.
A certain 20-year-old man had been grooming her since November 2018 when she got the phone. The suspect used to send to her sexually suggestive texts and photos of himself. Sometimes, the child would go visit his house where she would be touched inappropriately and defiled. The last ordeal happened in the first week of December 2019.
In December 2018, while on Facebook she also received a friend request from a stranger calling himself ‘2000’. The person behind the account requested her to send photos of herself in skimpy dressing making sexually suggestive poses, and in turn she would receive USD10 per photo. The child did as she was asked and promptly received the money. From then onwards, she kept sending her photos to the stranger and each she had gotten paid. She said that the account kept changing its identity and the money she received via Mpesa came with different names for each transaction. The last Facebook contact between the child and the stranger happened in November 2019.
The child was placed in a safe shelter where she is receiving regular counseling services from Childline Kenya while her case is being handled by court.
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