WHO: domestic violence surges in locked down Europe
A mural of a masked NHS worker in London, Britain, April 26, 2020. /Xinhua

A mural of a masked NHS worker in London, Britain, April 26, 2020. /Xinhua

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 (WHO) regional office said Thursday. 

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".

Kluge cited reports from many countries including Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Russia, Spain and Britain of increases in violence against women and men by an intimate partner and against children because of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kluge noted some countries had provided examples of how to address the issue. Italy has an app to ask for help without a phone call, while victims can alert pharmacists in Spain and France through code words.

Hotels in France and Belgium have converted to shelters, and Greenland has limited the sale of alcohol to make homes safer for children. 

"With job losses, rising alcohol-based harm and drug use, stress and fear, the legacy of this pandemic could haunt us for years," he said. 

(With input from agencies)