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Minister of Health, Horace Dalley has stressed the importance of ensuring that every child is educated and has access to health care and the love and guidance of parents and guardians.
He said that although progress had been made in improving the conditions of the nation’s children, there were still too many children who were not getting the care that they should.
“As a country, I think we have to now find ways and means to ensure that every single child in Jamaica has education and access to health care, and access to love. We are seeing too many children on the street begging, too many of our children are still not getting the parental attention that they need,” Mr. Dalley noted.
He was speaking yesterday (November 29), at a stakeholder workshop, which was hosted by the Government, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The aim of the workshop, which was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, was to facilitate and review the finalization of Jamaica’s Progress Report on achievements and challenges in preparation for the mid-decade review of the United Nation’s 2002 special session on children and World Fit For Children (WFFC) Plan of Action.
Minister Dalley lamented the fact that many children were still not registered and therefore did not have an official name.
He noted that a number of policy decisions had been made to address this issue as it relates to naming a child and the right to a birth certificate. “As of January 1, every child born in Jamaica will get the first copy of their birth certificate free of cost,” he said.
Mr. Dalley said that on December 5, he would meet with a team from the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to see what preparations were being made to effect this policy change. At last week’s sitting of the House of Representatives, the Minister called for the Joint Select Committee to expedite deliberations for swift passage of the National Registration Bill, which aims to ensure that every citizen is compulsorily registered from birth and issued with a unique identification number.
On the matter of HIV/AIDS and the effects of the deadly disease on children, the Health Minister said that while some progress had been made, there was “a far way to go”. Highlighting some of the positives, Mr. Dalley told the gathering that presently, every single pregnant mother is screened for HIV, thereby lessening the rate of transmission from mother to child.
Turning to the Children’s Registry, which the Child Development Agency (CDA) has been mandated to establish by year end, Mr. Dalley said even while this was being awaited, the Jamaican public was “much more aware and are much more courageous in reporting abuse of our children”.
The establishment of the Children’s Registry is in keeping with the Child Care and Protection Act of 2004 and will be the central point for receiving reports on children in need of care and protection. It will also act as a repository on the level of incidents and the nature of child abuse in the island. The CDA is projecting that a Registrar will also be in place by the end of 2006. In 1990, the government signed the World Summit for Children (WSC) Declaration and Plan of Action, committing to ensuring that the welfare of children is given high priority. The UN General Assembly document entitled, ‘A World Fit for Children’ was adopted, signaling a commitment to take action to promote and protect the rights of all children.
The consultation seeks to give stakeholders an opportunity to discuss the draft report, make suggestions regarding amendments and provide additional information for inclusion in the National Progress Report.