According to a brief report from the 1-Tok Kauselin Helpim Lain, the national helpline reported a 75 percent spike in demand during April 2020 to March 2021 compared to calls before COVID (2019 to March 2020).
The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain (Helpline) (715-08000) is a free, confidential phone counselling service providing information and support for anyone in PNG experiencing family violence or sexual violence issues and is supported by ChildFund PNG, Since 2017.
1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain- ChildFund PNG Helpline Manager, Kinime Daniel said they are expecting the rising demand for services to continue during the pandemic and beyond.
She said many families and communities continue to be affected by the impacts of the pandemic including job loss, disruptions to basic services such as education and health especially for children, women and other vulnerable members.
According to the Helpline, the status quo pre-COVID was that 2089 calls were received per quarter on an average. This increased by 75 percent to 3,659 calls per quarter. This is in part due to an increase in callers wanting information about COVID 19, as well as increase in callers seeking information about the helpline services.
“This has in turn increased the number of return callers, especially those callers who received information in the first instance then contacted the helpline for further support,” Ms Daniel said.
She said there was a huge increase in mental health and violence during the pandemic with mental health calls increasing by 263 percent.
Based on the evidence of calls, all three categories increased during the pandemic - Sexual Violence, family violence, safety issues and IPV increased significantly.
“This aligns with the global picture, where there has been an increase in mental health related issues and SGBV due to the primary and secondary effects of COVID-19. This also aligns with anecdotal data in PNG where mental health issues appear to be on the rise.
“Harmful traditional practices are also experienced to be on the rise. There has been a 60 percent increase in harmful traditional practice related calls (up from 29 calls on average per quarter pre-COVID, to 47 during COVID).”
This encompasses sorcery accusation related violence (SARV) among others. Sorcery accusations are mostly against women and girls. Escalations in violence can be triggered by stigma and misinformation around COVID19.
The report also showed that a 98 percent increase in calls from men (vs. 50 percent increase from women). This was due to an increase in men seeking information or as a witness to violence.
Most survivors of violence were females. Pre-COVID, there were 1089 calls per quarter from men, compared to 2151 during the COVID period. This compares to only a 50 percent increase in women (975 per quarter vs. 1459 per quarter).
The Helpline also reported a 128 percent increase in calls from 11- to 15-year-olds, a 150 percent increase from 16- to 20-year-olds. This compares to an 89 percent increase amongst 26-40 year olds. This pattern holds across both male and female callers.
In response to COVID-19 the Helpline expanded its services to meet the needs of children, by recruiting counsellors with experience in child focused support and increased promotions to this age group through partners and in schools.
The helpline has expanded its operational hours and is now available 24 hours and seven days a week. This is the first GBV specialist service to operate 24 hours.