COVID-19 has brought disruptions to both organisations and communities. Essential services closing and poverty increasing means that many community members are more at risk of experiencing violence and exploitation. Organisations have had to change their ways of working - for example, limiting travel to communities and shifting to remote working. Where staff are still working in communities, organisations are less likely to be able to monitor their behaviours and community members will face more barriers to reporting. This is likely to increase the risk of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH).

SEAH in a COVID-19 context can manifest in many ways, and there may be new risks - for example, technology-assisted sexual harassment of staff or community members, or staff requesting sexual favours in return for COVID-19 jabs. Individuals in powerful positions, such as those employed by NGOs, may find it easier to take advantage of those with less power since they are less likely to report SEAH. As a result, people that already experience discrimination because of their gender (identity), age, ethnicity, race, disability and so on are more at risk of experiencing SEAH during COVID-19.

Organisations should continue to implement their usual safeguarding measures, or for those that are new to safeguarding, start to implement global safeguarding standards. But all organisations should also put in place measures that address the new risks and realities that COVID-19 has introduced to staff, their programmes and their operations.

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Recommended reading

Want to learn more about addressing safeguarding during COVID-19?

We have selected a few resources which will help you strengthen your safeguarding awareness and take practical measures to address SEAH risks specifically related to COVID-19.

Want a quick introduction to safeguarding during COVID-19? Listen to the RSH webinar on preventing SEAH during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are you seeking guidance on how to strengthen your organisation’s safeguarding measures during COVID-19 response? Read this short technical note from the IASC and this short guidance note produced by RSH. Click here for an easy read version of the RSH guidance note.

What are the specific risks to children and what should organisations do to safeguard them during COVID-19 response? Have a look at this video produced by War Child

Want support and practical examples of how to communicate with communities on safeguarding and COVID-19? Read this guidance note on How to Communicate Safeguarding and PSEA Messages to Communities during COVID-19 or watch this video from Iraq on protection from SEAH during a vaccination campaign.

How does COVID-19 impact on reporting mechanisms? Read this research report produced by the CHS Alliance.

Trying to understand how safeguarding investigations may be impacted by COVID-19? Read this guidance on Safeguarding Investigations Considerations – During COVID-19.

Looking to support survivors of SEAH during the pandemic? Read this guidance note providing advice on GBV service provision during COVID-19 or this more detailed guidance on case management during COVID-19.

Are you confident that your safeguarding measures have been adapted to COVID-19? Have a look at the Global Mentoring Initiative’s checklist for small CSO’s on safeguarding during COVID-19 to see if there is anything you are missing.


Safeguarding Essentials