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Protecting children and families: Social Service Workforce Strengthening during COVID-19 in Bangladesh
The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant pressure on Bangladesh’s social and health systems. Concerned that the pandemic would impact negatively on the health system, the Government of Bangladesh took significant measures to control the spread of COVID-19. These measures included closing all schools and educational institutions, which resulted in over 42 million children without access to education, including children who were already out of school.
These containment measures also meant that vulnerable children became more vulnerable. Before the pandemic, according to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), an estimated 45 million children in Bangladesh were experiencing violence (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics & UNICEF Bangladesh, 2019). Violence has now increased by 31 per cent due to the pandemic, according to a study by the Manusher Jonno Foundation (2020). UNICEF-supported case management and follow-up activities reached 212,627 children between March and June 2020. Meanwhile, UNICEF helped provide psychosocial support for 53,367 children (20,160 girls, 260 children with disabilities), and 14,916 parents (6,332 female) and the Child Helpline reached 59,819 children during the reporting period (UNICEF Bangladesh, 2020b). With continued lockdown and school closures, there is a need for more case management services to reach concerned vulnerable families. This growing wave of violence is also increasing the demand for social workers to provide services despite the risk of COVID-19.
This case study focuses on UNICEF’s response to this demand and interventions taken to strengthen the social service workforce in Bangladesh during COVID-19.