Coronavirus: Domestic abuse in Europe surges as lockdowns continue, says WHO

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Emergency services across Europe have seen a sharp rise in domestic abuse calls under sweeping coronavirus lockdowns imposed across the continent, the World Health Organization’s regional office said Thursday.

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Billions of people are subject to some form of stay-at-home orders across the globe, and experts say women and children are particularly vulnerable to abuse in lockdown.

WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said countries “are reporting up to a 60 percent increase in emergency calls by women subjected to violence by their intimate partners in April this year, compared to last”.

According to the organisation, domestic violence often increases in times of crisis, and is exacerbated due to restrictions and containment measures put in place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

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“We have an increase in reporting from almost all countries,” said Isabel Yordi, Technical Officer for Gender and Health at WHO Europe.

The UN agency for sexual and reproductive health (UNFPA) has estimated that there would be 31 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide if lockdowns continue for another six months.

Europe has been hard hit by the pandemic, with some 1.6 million recorded infections and over 150,000 deaths, according to an AFP tally.

Before the epidemic, a quarter of women and a third of children in the region had been subjected to either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to WHO.

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