Child protection: between challenges and good practices.

Child protection is facing numerous challenges. Actions are taken in order to avoid them and help children reach their full potential. It is therefore important to have an overview of the diverse childhood protection issues along with the solutions brought to resolve them.

This article has been written with the help of Inah Fatoumata Kaloga, Childhood Protection Chief at UNICEF Haiti.

Child protection represent the true essence of UNICEF at the moment of its creation in December 11th, 1946. Its preservation is one of the main pillar of the mandate which the agency has to respect within its different programs. The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 is remembering that protection must mean “[…] that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding […]”.

The Republic of Haiti, having ratified the Convention in 1995, must, with the help of its partners, respect and protect children.Today, progress has been made since this ratification. Thus, new laws have been adopted concerning paternity, maternity and filiation (2012), adoption (2013) or the law prohibiting the sale and trafficking of persons (2014). Moreover, the school attendance of children aged 6 to 11 increased by 50 to 84% between 2005 and 2012 and the infant mortality rate has decreased by 52% since 1990 in Haiti. However, many challenges remain still today.

“It is very difficult to find solutions for everyone, right away”

The first, the most obvious, concerns the scale of the needs that an organization like UNICEF faces in Haiti. Indeed, there is an extremely high level of vulnerability with a number of children in institution estimated at 30,000 of which 80% would be family placement and therefore non-orphaned. ”It is very difficult to find solutions for everyone, right away” say Inah Fatoumata Kaloga, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF.
The second challenge is access to services for vulnerable families. The latter greatly influences the scale of the needs because families who will not have access to social, health or school services quickly and effectively will have no choice but to place their children elsewhere. It is therefore essential that they can find the resources necessary for the care and development of their children.

The work must be done in collaboration with the other sections through the implementation of integrated programs as it was the case with education and protection after Hurricane Matthew. Inah Fatoumata Kaloga says that “working as much as possible from what other sectors do is our program for the coming years.” It is in this perspective that a program combining protection and nutrition will emerge to identify the most vulnerable families through the lens of malnutrition. The cross-sector approach thus represent the perfect example of good practices so that the programs are put in place as efficiently as possible, promoting rapid resilience.

“Community networks are the most likely to feel the pulse of their community.”

Cooperation with community networks is also essential and serves as good practice. To do so, the child protection section of UNICEF is developing a warning system using mobile technology. Networking would help identify vulnerabilities and report them in real time at a lower cost. The mobile penetration rate in Haiti is 60%, which is quite great. Community networks are made up of people with a particular influence, such as the priest or the mayor, but also individuals with a certain proximity and social trust with vulnerable populations such as taxi drivers or neighbours. As Inah Fatoumata Kaloga says, “community networks are the most likely to feel the pulse of their community.” Even if improvements are still to be made, this cooperation has already led to many advances in terms of case-by-case recovery.

This post is also available in: French