The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica has donated $2.4 million to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) for the purchase of sanitation supplies for more than 50 residential and childcare facilities.

Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Jamaica, Janet Cupidon-Quallo, told JIS News the donation is a critical preventive measure to ensure that the facilities, which are home to approximately 1,700 children, are kept sterile to prevent transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Keeping the virus away from the children is very important, and where you have many children together in one place then the risk becomes a little higher,” she pointed out.

UNICEF Jamaica has also donated approximately $1 million to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), which operates four juvenile correctional centres and houses 200 children. The funds were used for the purchase of sanitation and health supplies, including nebulisers.

“The centres have children who are asthmatic and may be more at risk,” Mrs. Cupidon-Quallo noted.

She pointed out that UNICEF Jamaica also presented food supplies valued at $500,000 to families in Western Kingston currently experiencing financial difficulties.

Noting that there has been a 25 per cent decrease in the number of child abuse reports, Mrs. Cupidon-Quallo said another initiative being spearheaded by UNICEF Jamaica, along with several of its partners, is a sensitisation campaign to encourage members of the public to report suspected cases of child abuse.

She said this is a particularly vulnerable time for some children who may be victims of mistreatment, as children remain at home to reduce their exposure to COVID-19.

“Much of the abuse that children experience occurs within what ought to be their ‘safe places’ – homes and communities – and some of the persons who abuse them are locked down with them at home, making it much more difficult for them to make a report, which many children do through their teachers. However, with schools closed, many children do not have access to those persons whom they might report abuse to,” the UNICEF Official pointed out.

“We are looking to see what we can do to raise the awareness of communities to remind them that they have an obligation to report child abuse if members suspect it is taking place,” she added.