The United Nations Children's Fund – UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection in Tanzania, Andy Brooks has disclosed that the prevalence rates of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in the country is critical.
Speaking in an exclusive interview in Dar es Salaam early this week, Brooks referred back to the ground-breaking ‘Violence against Children’ Survey Report released last year by the government, which exposed the findings of national households survey on violence against children, indicating as many as one in three girls and one in seven boys had experienced sexual abuse in their childhoods while three quarters of all boys and girls had experienced physical violence.
He drew attention particularly to the initiatives in progress by the department of social welfare in building a model for a child protection system in the country.
Brooks disclosed that UNICEF is supporting the department of social welfare to roll out a practical application of a child protection system in six districts, engaging all relevant sectors of local government and civil society.
“In these districts such as Magu, Hai, Temeke, Kasulu, Musoma and Bukoba through collaboration with social welfare, police, justice, health and education sectors and informal community structures, we are building a model of working together to ensure that cases of child abuse are dealt with swiftly and appropriately,” he said.
He said a Child Protection Management Information System is also being piloted in these districts, beginning with the development of case management tools to be use by the teams responsible for child protection interventions.
Brooks said the knowledge and evidence of these pilot districts will help disclose the development of a national child protection system linked to, and reinforced by the Law of the Child Act, that provides a comprehensive range of prevention and response services to address child protection issues.
“Just last week, the Department of Social Welfare convened a group of child protection CSOs, including World Vision, Plan International, Save the Children, Pact and Africare, to record the experience in the 6 districts to date and charter a path to expanding the number of districts with functioning District Child Protection Systems to 25 by 2015,” Brooks revealed.
Brooks also spoke of his concerns in relation to Juvenile Justice. He referred to a report that CHRAGG had launched last year in which it was exposed that up to 1400 children are in adult detention.
“I spoke with the Commissioner of Prison before UNICEF supported CHRAGG in carrying out the assessment. I remember him seeking our support to respond to inmates in his prisons whom he told me were not his ‘clients’…. There was a strong recognition and commitments to ensuring children were separated from adults in detention but nevertheless this mix was there and needed to be addressed,” said Brooks.
The UNICEF official expressed his deep concern about not only mixing adults and children in detention but also the lost time of their childhoods spent in detention waiting for judgment, where as they normally ended up being discharged anyway.
“We have to work harder to first of all keep the children out of detention through diversion programmes but also ensure that conditions in detention respond to children’s development needs and are organized to support children’s rehabilitation to become productive members of society,” he added.
As a response to the CHRAGG report and broader assessments of children’s access to justice and juvenile justice, the Ministry for Constitutional and Legal Affairs has developed a Child Justice Strategy for the next 5 years which is due to be presented to a PS level meeting in the coming weeks.
Brooks made one final point in relation to resource allocation for child protection. He disclosed that in a recent analysis of child protection budget allocation, led by the Ministry of Finance, it was revealed that three key MDAs responsible for children’s protection allocated as little as 0.1 percent of their budgets to child protection and in 12 LGAs assessed, the allocation was even smaller at 0.002percent.
In response to these findings it has been agreed that a Budgeting Guideline for child protection should be developed to ensure that the resources allocated to child protection are proportional to the scale and scope of the problem being exposed by the recent surveys and assessments. It is particularly important for social welfare at the LGA level to have a cost centre or “vote” which they are currently lacking.
Brooks concluded, “Throughout our work of child protection in Tanzania, we are finding that for the problems being uncovered there is a commitment from the government for action and response. This is very encouraging although all the partners know there is a long way to go.”