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Building a culture of protection of children is paramount in the fight against child abuse, said Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna.

"We have to build a culture of child protection from abuse in our families, communities, and institutions such as churches and schools. We have to empower children and their families to choose paths that protect, nurture children and give them positive reinforcements for a successful life," she stated.

Ms. Hanna was speaking at the ‘Bless the Children’ event in commemoration of World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse on November 19, at the St. William Grant Park, downtown Kingston.

She said she has been appalled at the levels and kind of abuse that face the nation’s children, including heinous acts of sexual abuse.  She noted that neglect is the main form of child abuse in Jamaica, with 2,280 cases reported from January to June this year. "This is more than the 1,791 cases reported for the same period in 2011," she lamented.

The Office of the Children's Registry (OCR)reports that there have been more than 11,000 cases of child neglect reported to that organisation since it was formed in 2007.

Stating that child abuse prevention should be a personal and collective campaign the Minister urged “every parent, guardian, sibling, caregiver, neighbour, community member, to allow our children to be loved, cared for, protected and facilitated achieve their innocent childhood dreams."

The Minister said she remained, without apology, an advocate of reporting instances of child abuse and punishing persons, who are guilty of abusing children, “but my greater joy, our greater mission, must be to ensure that such abuse is prevented; to stop it from happening in the first place."

The Bless the Child event, organised by the Child Development Agency (CDA), featured various stakeholders coming together to invoke God’s blessings on the nation's children.

The CDA has statutory responsibility for children, who are in need of care and protection, that is, those abused, neglected or abandoned as well as for children, who are experiencing behavioural problems.