United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, has made an appeal for the region to "break the silence" surrounding child abuse to end the scourge, which is affecting a significant number of children.
He informed that an estimated six million children in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer severe abuse, including abandonment, and 80,000 children die each year from parental abuse.
He noted that children are subject to violence in all the places in which they should feel safe, “in their schools, where they live, and in the very institutions designed to protect them."
“Our task in this region to reduce violence has passed being urgent. Violence in the Caribbean is at epidemic proportions and has tremendous implications of the welfare of our children and the socio-economic development of our nation,” he stated.
The UN Representative was speaking on Monday May 14 at the opening ceremony of the Sub-regional meeting for follow-up to the UN study on Violence against Children (UNVAC), at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.
Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on VAC, Rosa Maria Santos, agreed that much more needs to be done in the Caribbean and around the world to eradicate violence against children.
She noted that unfortunately, in many cultures, people have the mindset that there is nothing wrong with beating or hitting a child and see corporal punishment or other forms of violence against children as discipline.
“The problem is widespread, pervasive, hidden and silenced, and for children, they feel very lonely and ignored,” she lamented.
Youth and Culture Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna, in her remarks said the government is committed to protecting the welfare of the nation’s children, and has earmarked significant funds, in the 2012/13 budget, for programmes that address child care and development.
Significantly, she said, more has also been allocated to enable the continued participation of the Child Development Agency (CDA) in the multi-agency strategic development plan for child protection.
“This means that two CDA investigators will continue working at the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) in the prevention and detection of sexual offences against children, when the current bilateral funding from the British government expires at the end of this month."
The Minister commended the various local and international stakeholders in the provision of children’s services, noting that effective delivery of programmes for the protection and wellbeing of the nation’s children is best achieved within a framework of partnership.
She informed that one example of such a collaboration is the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the CDA and the University of Technology (UTech) in April, to facilitate practical training for university students pursuing programmes in child and adolescent development, as well as internships and placements for graduates of the university’s child and adolescent programmes.
In addition, she said, there is the Country Plan Action Programme for children, which was recently signed by the Government of Jamaica and UNICEF, which will see the investment of some $1.2 billion in children protection and development interventions over the next five years.
The two-day sub-regional meeting is being hosted by the CDA, and organised by the Global Movement for Children of Latin America and the Caribbean, in close collaboration with Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on VAC and CARICOM.
Approximately 150 people from CARICOM member states will participate in the meetings, including senior state representatives, civil society organisations, non-governmental agencies, and children and adolescents.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter