Covid-19 continues to impact the lives of millions of children and young people around the globe. Despite lockdown and restrictions in many countries, child helplines have remained operational and many have been able to adjust quickly to the new realities of remote working, providing essential services in challenging times. For many children and young people, child helplines have been – and continue to be – the only point of support.
In 2020, child helplines responded to over 1,900,000 calls. As you can read in our latest report, most child helplines faced a heightened demand for their services, which has yet to decline. As part of our celebration of this year’s International Child Helpline Day, we are ending with a Global Call for Action – action by governments, action by regional institutions and organisations, action by mobile operators, ICTs and social media platforms that will truly help to ensure that all children and young people’s voices continue to be heard during the Covid-19 pandemic. This builds upon the Call for Action we made last year, and emphasises the central role of child helplines in national child protection systems, especially during emergencies such as the pandemic.
We’re calling on governments around the world to:
- urgently ensure that child helplines are equipped with the necessary financial and human resources to operate fully, including during emergencies, but also ensure that referral mechanisms are available, operational and well connected to those helplines;
- ensure that child helplines are fully integrated into emergency response plans and national action plans and child protection systems, in coordination with other service providers and humanitarian actors;
- continue raising awareness of child helpline services in Covid-19 communications across different channels;
- ensure that all children and young people have free and unlimited access to child helpline services, including particularly vulnerable children and young people, including children on the move, children with special needs, children from minorities, LGBTQI+, refugee and displaced children and young people;
- support and facilitate the establishment of national child helplines where they do not yet exist; and
- support child helplines to strengthen their data management systems, so that their data can effectively and efficiently contribute towards informing relevant policies and services to uphold children’s rights.
Regional institutions and organisations
We are calling on regional institutions and organisations to:
- recognise the central role of child helplines in addressing violence against children and young people, mental health and other key child protection issues;
- advocate with governments and donors for additional resources for child helplines to remain operational during emergencies and strengthen their services in a sustainable way; and
- continue advocating for regionally harmonised child helpline numbers in order to make them more accessible to children and young people, such as 116 in Africa, 1098 in Asia, 116 111 in Europe and 150 in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Mobile operators, ICTs and social media platforms
We are calling upon this communications sector to:
- use their channels to disseminate to their users the contact details for child helplines and information about the services they provide;
- support child helplines adapting to remote services as needed and helping them to expand their operations through the use of innovative technologies;
- waive costs for child helpline numbers whenever incurred and wherever possible; and
- continue strengthening measures to protect children from all forms of violence, including bullying and online sexual exploitation, including via monitoring mechanisms and reporting avenues.
You can find the full text of our Call for Action in four languages, below: