COVID-19 has placed children at an increased risk of radicalization into violent extremism, and online sexual abuse and exploitation. Experts note that statistics on online child exploitation and abuse globally has steadily increased during the pandemic.
To dissect and shed more light on the challenge, the GNRC Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, participated in an online panel discussion organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on, “COVID19 Lock-down: A Breeding Ground for Online Radicalization to Violent Extremism.” The virtual discussion, which took place on 24th April 2020, sought to address violence against children in Sub-Saharan Africa and across the world, in light of the pandemic.
The event was graced by the regional intergovernmental organization IGAD Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism led by the Director, Dr. Simon Nyambura. Over 90 participants including experts in peace and conflict resolution, child rights, and online technology attended the meeting.
In his remarks, Dr. Ali noted that due to COVID-19 lockdown, most young people are compelled to be at home, and online. This creates room for extremists to take advantage of the many young people currently connected online, for their online radicalization to violent extremism. He added that violent extremist groups are taking advantage of the situation, and increasing their online presence including developing new narratives to sway the masses of online children and youth.
Panelists discussed the need addressing the needs of the most vulnerable groups—children and youth, who are at risk of being radicalized during the pandemic. It was noted that parents and caregivers ought to be involved in their children’s lives and be informed on what the youth and children do in the online platforms. In solidarity Dr. Ali called on physicians, doctors and other scientists to join hands with others to find cure for COVID-19, noting that the impact of the pandemic on socio-economic conditions, globally, is extraordinary.