Suspected child abuse cases have increased more than 40 percent amid the pandemic, with the majority involving physical abuse, followed by sexual violence, says a doctor who handles children and teenage cases at the United Christian Hospital.
Speaking in a radio program yesterday, Anna Cheng Wai-fun, associate consultant at the hospital's Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and an executive committee member of the children protection group Against Child Abuse, quoted the Social Welfare Department figures in May where about 1,360 child abuse cases were reported last year - a 44-percent jump from 2020.
Cheng said arguments and conflicts increased when parents and children spent more time together at home amid the Covid
-pandemic, while the parents may feel stressed to getting their children settled in online classes, which caused the number of child abuse cases to surge.
"Suspected child abuse is a sign that a family needs help. We have to understand the difficulties faced by the families and their backgrounds with the help of doctors, social workers and psychologists," she said.
"It will take time to talk with the family, do research and examine the child's condition at the hospital."
She added that medical staff can help spot suspected cases as almost all babies born in Hong Kong receive vaccinations at maternal and child health centers.
When hospitals spot suspected child abuse, medical teams including psychiatrists can understand the situations of the families and hold meetings to determine how to support them, Cheng said.
When asked about the government's plan to implement a mandatory reporting mechanism for suspected cases of child abuse, Cheng said people should not wait until there are serious cases but to report to the department when they witness any suspected child abuse.
Speaking on the same radio program, Katy Wan Kit-ying, assistant service director at Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service, said the group has been actively helping pregnant mothers who are either addicted to drugs and or suffering from mental disorders with rehabilitation services and getting their babies vaccinated.
She said since the scheme launched in 2005, more than half of the mothers had been rehabilitated and almost all children were vaccinated.