By Annlyne Barbara Oranga
The Global prevalence on violence against children report, indicated that African children suffer from violence from their mother, relatives, guardians and providers of the alternative care, while the child line report indicate that children are abused by people close to them. 50 % of which represents children between the age of 2 to 17 years and if violent discipline is added the percentage reaches 82%. The report also indicated that 1 out of 4 children are sexually violated by their care givers and family members.
Better Care Network, The African Child Policy Forum and other partners came together to find a solution to end violence against children in all care setting. The experts drawn from over 10 African countries comprised representatives of government, UN bodies, international organizations, regional organizations and the media. The experts were made up of psychologist, policy makers, child protection experts and system strengthening specialists. The two days consultation saw presentations, panel discussions and personal testimonies on violence against children in the care settings.
The consultation was officially opened by Kenya’s Director of Children Services, Mr. Noah Sanganyi who reiterated the Kenya’s government commitment to end violence against children, he said that the government is developing a progressive children’s act that will be a legal framework to protect children.
The Key note speaker Prof. Benyam Mezmur, the immediate former chair of the UNCRC committee of experts and the current chair of the committee of experts of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. In his presentation Prof. Mezimur said for a long time care settings have been seen as a place of refuge for vulnerable children, but research is showing that the institutionalization has a negative impact on the children. He challenged the participants to come up with solutions to end violence in care settings.
In an opening presentation, it was identified the reason why children find themselves in care setting include violence at home, poverty, health issues and physical disability. It was also noted that some care facilities owners trick parents to take children in care facilities.
Save the Children presented a research on Violence in Kinship Care, the research conducted in 3 Eastern African Countries show that most children in care settings have a living biological parent. For instant in Ethiopia 90% of children in care settings had a living parents and only 11% don’t have a surviving parent.
In her presentations Kelley Bunkers a child protection systems expert informed the participants that Violence against Children in the Care setting has been happening for a long time. She identified the following as the main forms of VAC in the care settings
- Physical and emotional maltreatment of children by caregivers, peers and other adults is a frequent occurrence in residential care.
- Many children entering residential care have already lived through violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect. Separation from families can in and of itself be a traumatic experience.
- Exposure to VAC before placement and subsequent experience of VAC in residential care increases likelihood of engaging in violent behaviour. Violence is cyclical.
- Peer on peer violence: “Lack of privacy and respect for cultural identity, frustration, overcrowding, and a failure to separate particularly vulnerable children from older, more aggressive children often lead to peer-on-peer violence.
- Higher rates of mental health issues including depression and aggressive behavior.
This is worse in refugee settings according to a presentation by UNHCR. Refugee children have unique needs because they have just been uprooted from their homes and are adopting to a new environment.
Peter Kamau the founder of child in family focus, who found himself in care setting when he lost his parents told the participants that abuse in care setting affects child development and has long life impact on the child’s life. Stephen Ucembe, the Regional Director of Hope and Homes also a care leaver said although children have left care may look materially successful in reality, they have scars as a result of violence experienced in the care setting.
All presenters agreed that there is need for a focus on care settings and the main recommendations
Registration of all residential care facilities in order to ensure government oversight including ensuring moratoria on the set up of new institutional care facilities.
Create effective gate-keeping mechanisms and prevention measures (family support, etc.) to avoid unnecessary placement of children in care.
- Place special attention to ending the practice of residential care for children under the age of three.
- Ensure all residential care facilities are meeting the national accepted standards and that there is resourced and supported workforce to monitor and sanction.
- Ensure and monitor child protection policies and procedures, including confidential reporting in all residential care facilities.
- Eliminate access by non-mandated and skilled individuals including international volunteers etc.
- Conduct further research to understand the magnitude of the issue of VAC and care in residential care facilities and its characteristics across the continent.
The participants developed a call to action targeting, Civil Society Organizations, Governments, Regional Economics Communities and the African Union. The call to action is available at the better care network website. For a detailed proceedings of the consultation please find it here #ChildAfrica
Barbara is a journalist with Mtoto News
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