Study finds major gaps in actions to prevent violence against children, adolescents

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Study finds major gaps in actions to prevent violence against children, adolescents

Monday, November 23, 2020

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A new study on violence against children and adolescents in the Americas, including the Caribbean, has found that while regional countries have taken important action, serious gaps in prevention and response leave many children behind.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said that the first-of-its kind analysis of country data on violence against children and adolescents has gained new urgency amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It said that early data indicate that the pandemic is associated with increasing risk of domestic violence, including violence against children. COVID-related lock-down, stress, anxiety, substance abuse and social and economic concerns can provoke familial conflict. The pandemic has also led to reduced access of children to friends, relatives and health and protection services that might have provided support.

“Violence against children has devastating and lifelong consequences for them,” said PAHO Deputy Director Mary Lou Valdez.

“COVID-19 only intensifies the problem, as triggers for domestic violence are heightened. It is vital that countries pay attention to violence against children in this time of increased tension and that they use the evidence-based strategies that have been successful in tackling this pernicious problem.”

The report was launched Monday at an event that included Valdez, Maria Juliana Ruiz, the First Lady of Colombia and Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, Minister of State in the Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness.

UNICEF, UNESCO and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children as well as well as numerous other groups in the region collaborated on the report.

The “Regional Status Report 2020: Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Children,” is based on information from 31 countries that responded to a global survey. The study marks the first time that governments have reported on progress on the INSPIRE framework, a set of seven evidence-based strategies for preventing and responding to violence against children.

These strategies, with the highest potential of reducing violence against children, include implementation and enforcement of laws, challenging social norms and values that justify use of violence; creating safe physical environments for children; providing support to parents and caregivers; strengthening income and economic security; improving response and support services for children; and providing children with education and life skills.

Among the key findings of the report is that all countries need to strengthen implementation of action plans and laws to address violence against children.

It noted that while all countries report having laws prohibiting statutory rape, only 29 per cent report that violators are highly likely to be sanctioned, suggesting a high level of impunity.

The report also found that too few children have access to programmes and services to prevent and respond to violence. More than 90 per cent of the countries indicate having clinical services for child survivors of sexual violence, but only 26 per cent report that they reach all or nearly all of those in need. Only 16 per cent report that mental health services for child survivors reach all or nearly all of those who need them.

“Given the devastating burden of violence on the region's children and adolescents, their families and communities, we urge all countries to sustain progress and strengthen the implementation and effectiveness of these evidence-based approaches,” said Valdez, adding “nobody should be left behind. A child, who has experienced violence, must have timely access to health and protection services of good quality”.

UNICEF┤s Deputy Regional Director, Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, said “violence against children is the flagship priority for UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean and we will keep working closely with government counterparts in all countries in the region, with our United Nations sister agencies and with the End Violence Alliance”.

“Violence, including homicides, is preventable and we must jointly act to end this crime,” he added.

PAHO said violence against children takes multiple forms, including maltreatment by adults in a position of authority, bullying and fighting among peers, sexual and dating violence, and assault connected to peers and gangs.

It said violence has been linked to physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems as well as to socioeconomic costs such as educational underachievement, increased risk of unemployment and poverty, and association with gangs and organised crime.

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