Leaders across the sub region must listen to children and young people and work alongside them to design a better future in a post COVID-19 environment, says Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF Representative for the eastern Caribbean area.
Speaking under the theme “Reimagine the Future” to mark World Children’s Day 2020, the sub regional head of the UN children’s agency said this is even more critical in the face of COVID-19, which he described as a child rights crisis.
Kamuragiye said the costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may persist throughout their lives.
He said children and young people will be living with the impacts of this pandemic and how the sub region and, indeed, the world chooses to respond matters. Children must be included in decisions that affect their future, he added.
“Children will never accept that we should return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic, because they know ‘normal’ was never good enough. And children have a unique and unparalleled ability to reimagine a more equal, just and sustainable world,” he added.
He said many of the region’s children are already speaking on the issues which are affecting the regional, and especially pointed out 11-year-old Maria Marshall of Barbados, who was featured in a conversation with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom; and 14-year-old Trinidadian Priyanka Lalla, who was named as the sub region’s first UNICEF Youth Advocate.
Kamuragiye said the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep inequalities in societies and the eastern Caribbean has not escaped, with staggered school days, shortened timetables and blended education, in a scenario where many do not have access to the internet, depriving many of a solid education.
“Indeed, a recent UNICEF report projected that across Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 3.1 million children may never return to school, while school enrolment of first-time students is likely to decline by more than 1.8 per cent,” he warned.
World Children’s Day is a global day of action for children, by children taking place every year on Nov. 20, the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.