CARE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN THE SHELTERS OF EL REFUGIO DE LA NIÑEZ CONTEXT OF CORONAVIRUSES
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the Guatemalan context as well as that of other countries. The Government of Guatemala decreed mandatory national measures to prevent COVID-19: total social isolation, the suspension of the public transport service, suspension of work in public institutions and a curfew in which the movement of people is prohibited from 16:00hrs to 04:00hrs, the suspension of classes in schools and outpatient consultation in hospitals was also limited, giving priority to cases of people infected with COVID-19, and it was decreed that all people should use mouth covers. The measures involved the closure of national and international airports and the interdepartmental mobilization of people was prohibited.
These measures have become complex for the general population and very particularly for children and adolescents who are in shelters, because family visits to them have also been prohibited.
The context of COVID-19 has made female girls and adolescents more vulnerable to sexual violence, considering that almost 90% of them are victims, in their own family circle, which means that their rapists are the father, grandfather, uncles, neighbors, brothers, among others, who have taken advantage of the confinement in the houses to abuse them. The statistics of complaints show that unfortunately, cases of sexual violence in girls have increased, and from January 1st to April 30th, 2020, the National Institute of Forensic Sciences -INACIF- carried out 1,695 medical evaluations of girls and adolescents for sexual crimes and the situation becomes even more difficult, because all shelters in the country are full.
Currently, El Refugio de la Niñez has 92 children and adolescents in its 3 shelters, 10 of them under 5 years old, 5 girls between 12 and 14 years old with high-risk pregnancies.
Ensuring the care of children and adolescents has been difficult, because different permits have had to be managed in institutions for the mobilization of staff; and due to the lack of public transportation, professionals with institutional vehicles have been helped to get around, considering that not all of them have their own vehicle. El Refugio de la Niñez has done everything possible to bring each professional from their home to the shelter and to return them to their homes, which has significantly increased fuel costs.
All the children and adolescents have received food in the shelters, but for El Refugio de la Niñez, it has been difficult to maintain it, because the money that the State allocates as a supplement to care, has not yet been disbursed, having already almost 5 months, without receiving it.
In order to prevent the spread of any girl or adolescent in shelters, internal action protocols have had to be implemented, which has involved reinforcing the cleaning and disinfection of the different areas, with greater consumption of items such as soap, chlorine, detergent among others.
Since it is not possible for girls and adolescents to receive visits from their relatives in shelters, emotional crises have increased and it has been necessary to have additional support staff for emotional containment.
Some cases of girls and adolescents with health problems have been complicated and due to the national health situation, they have had to resort to the services of the private sector, which makes the service more expensive.
It is important to highlight that the professionals who provide care have shown their commitment and availability to care for girls and adolescents and have implemented different educational activities to help with emotional containment and keep them occupied most of the time.
The girls and boys have continued to receive classes in the shelters, through online platforms, and for this, it was necessary to increase the capacity of the internet service, so that all of them are connected without problem.
One of the most complex groups for care in shelters has been unaccompanied migrant children, who have been victims of violence, who return to the country from the United States.
On the return trip to Guatemala, some of them were in contact with other children infected with COVID-19, so people from their communities of origin reject them and do not allow them to return to their homes with their families, until comply with the quarantine period and rule out that they are infected with COVID-19. This situation has forced children to stay longer at the Raices de Amor shelter in El Refugio de la Niñez.
The Raíces de Amor shelter adapted a space to attend to the migrant children who recently arrived in the country, so that they do not come into contact with the other children who were already in the shelter to prevent COVID-19. For this, it has required additional professionals, who follow special preventive measures.
For us, it continues to be a challenge to guarantee the attention of children, but we have a commitment to them and as always we appreciate the support of Kinderhilfe, which is very valuable in changing the lives of children.