What can the World Bank learn about child SEA/H issues from the first wave of COVID-19 Fast Track projects?

This update and brief was co-authored with Ling San Lau, Senior Program Officer at CPC Learning Network.

The Care and Protection of Children (CPC) Learning Network, in collaboration with the Bank Information Center (BIC), conducted an analysis of the first wave of World Bank COVID-19 Fast Track Facility projects (Fast Track projects), which revealed a number of trends and gaps related to addressing child sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEA/H). This analysis also identified several opportunities for progress.

In March 2020, the World Bank Group committed to distributing up to $160 billion towards COVID-19 response over a period of 15 months. The “first wave” of 75 COVID-19 Fast Track projects that were approved between April and September 2020 totaled around $43 billion and covered a large geographic and thematic range, including health, education, and social protection. Over one-third (28) of the projects were based in Sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller proportions representing Europe and Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Compounding factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including health and psychosocial risks, disrupted social networks, economic and psychosocial impacts on families, loss of learning and livelihood opportunities, movement restrictions, quarantine and isolation requirements, and reduced access to services place children at increased risk of SEA/H. Thus, it is essential for all COVID-19 projects to account for risks of child SEA/H and implement appropriate risk mitigation and response provisions. We offer a brief overview of these findings and suggest six concrete steps the World Bank can take in future project design to help protect children from SEA/H.

Six Steps to Protect Children from SEA/H in World Bank COVID-19 Fast Track Projects. 

  1. Build on the good practices identified in COVID-19 Fast Track projects and improve the use of available tools and guidance on SEA/H prevention
  2. Address the unique needs and vulnerabilities faced by children, including to SEA/H
  3. Use clear, consistent, and appropriate terminology related to SEA/H across projects 
  4. Systematically consider SEA/H issues in project design and project documents and include SEA/H indicators when monitoring and evaluating the success of a project
  5. Engage and work collaboratively with stakeholders, including civil society
  6. Adapt project documentation to better reflect SEA/SH risk analysis and mitigating actions and make it publicly available and timely

For more in-depth analysis and recommendations, see the brief on this issue.