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'Child protection is health protection'

April 29, 2020

Germany should focus less on reopening for football matches and more on children and families struggling with the realities of the coronavirus crisis, Family Minister Franziska Giffey told DW.

Franziska Giffey
Image: Getty Images/M. Hitij

Children and families are not enough of a focus in Germany's coronavirus response, German Family Minister Franziska Giffey told DW on Wednesday. 

Giffey called for a greater emphasis on finding "step-by-step solutions for children" as Germany lifts restrictions placed on public life, which have included the closure of schools and kindergartens, imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Some students in Germany are due to head back to school next week. 

"I would wish for us to spend more time talking about how children are faring in the crisis rather than when the next Bundesliga match will be," Giffey said. 

That Germany's health care system has not been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients has been a great achievement, the family minister said, but she added that more attention needed to be paid to the welfare of children and families.

"We talk, on the one hand, about protecting health, but we also need to talk about protecting children," she said. "Child protection is health protection.

"The well-being of children depends on safeguarding the health and these young lives. That's why this needs to be part of how we balance our decisions on how to move forward."

Read more: Coronavirus crisis: Children suffer most from being locked down

Preparing for a rise in reports of domestic abuse

With nearly all children in Germany kept at home due to the coronavirus restrictions, many child welfare specialists have said cases of abuse are bound to rise

Data on such an increase is not currently available for Germany, Giffey said. Conversations with other countries and child welfare experts indicate that reports of domestic violence tend to be delayed in crisis scenarios, she explained. 

"We expect that there are many cases of conflicts in families that won't emerge now, but which we will only learn about later," she said.

It is important that child and youth protection agencies as well as centers that offer support for abused women are prepared for an eventual uptick in reports, Giffey said.  

To that end, the Family Ministry has launched its "stronger than violence" initiative, she said.

The campaign provides the opportunity in cases of abuse to seek support online via video or online chat. The ministry had also increased its number of help hotlines, Giffey said. 

"Since these are in fact receiving more calls, we can assume that there is more going on," she said, reiterating that it is hard to know exactly without data available. 

"But still, I believe we must be vigilant and look out for what is happening in the dark."