According to UNICEF, globally an adolescent is killed every 7 minutes by an act of violence. Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest child homicide rate for any region of the world. Viva is working with partner networks in 12 countries within the region including Honduras, were nearly a third of child deaths are caused by homicide and Venezuela where over a quarter of child deaths are attributed to homicide.
In addition to this, six million children in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer severe abuse, including neglect and exploitation, and 80,000 boys and girls die each year from abuse by their parents. Violence takes various forms and seriously affects the wellbeing and development opportunities of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Inequality and social exclusion are persistent features of the region. This combines with high levels of marginalisation and stigmatisation based on race, ethnicity, age or social status to influence the perpetuation of violence against adolescents. The situation is exacerbated by armed conflict, which strongly affects children and the social and economic development of Central America.
Organised crime, human trafficking, weapon use, drug smuggling, and corruption are perpetuating violence of every dimension. The welfare of children in this context is fragile.
Children, especially those living and working on the streets, are criminalised and perceived as a threat to society, stigmatised by the media and blamed for an alleged increase in juvenile crime. In parallel, there is a tendency of the judicial system to institutionalise children as a protection against the threat in their homes and schools.
We believe that it is crucial to develop the child protection system and build local capacity to tackle social violence and to prevent violations of children’s rights, against incidents of neglect, abuse, and exploitation. There is also a need to change the attitude of the wider society towards children.
It is important that all key stakeholders, including local communities, government and civil society contribute to lowering the rate of violence in the region and creating peaceful and secure societies.
Our approach is a direct implementation of the recommendation of WHO: “We need to convince policy makers, ministers of health, and the public that violence prevention programmes and policies can be cost effective compared with alternatives such as incarceration. National plans of action need to be developed in collaboration with all relevant agencies to ensure that governmental and non-governmental agencies agree priorities and objectives, define one another’s responsibilities. Many agencies are working towards addressing violence at the international or national level. However, few mechanisms exist to promote collaboration between agencies and specialties.” (The WHO world report on violence and health, The Lancet, 2002)
We are working to build cities where children are free from violence and domestic abuse, where there is a culture of peace and just power relationships. In order to sustain this, individuals, civil society groups and government need to be working together in a co-ordinated way to prevent domestic abuse and violence and children and adolescents must actively participate in promoting their rights. Public services should have a shared sense responsibility for protecting children through legislation, law enforcement, funding, resourcing, information sharing and integrated front line services, while the government must guarantee the protection of children and adolescents. We want to also work with the private sector to promote non-violence towards children and ensure that companies are not engaged in any exploitative practices regarding children.
Following situational mapping and pilot programmes, three key programme objectives and the activities needed to achieve them have been identified to begin to work towards a city solution where cities are free from violence and abuse.
The three programme objectives are:
1. Prevention: Stopping violence before it occurs. Changing attitudes and norms that encourage violence through activities including:
- Raising awareness on children’s rights and how to care for children through media messaging and the Good Treatment Campaign
- Training children as Child Ambassadors and in child protection to know how to keep safe, understand their rights and report abuse
- Birth registration
- Parenting classes strengthening families
- Training churches, schools and families in alternative discipline, Child Protection and Celebrating Children
- Advocate to government for improved legislation protecting children and encourage government representation in campaigns
2. Early Intervention: Detect risk factors, support parents, caregivers and help children and adolescents to manage risks and challenges through activities including:
- Child self-referral to Protect Yourself programme and adolescent mentoring
- Churches build teams of social workers and psychologists to provide pastoral support for families
- Temporary shelter for children on the streets and running from violence, life skills training, educational support and vocational training
- Establish or strengthen child protection committees to look out for children in abusive situations and signpost them to relevant service providers
- Work with government to register children, facilitating legal and psychological support
- Train police stations in child protection and best practice for working with children and abuse
3. Restoration: Providing care and long-term support to children who have suffered on going violence through activities including:
- Developing network street teams to refer children suffering violence and abuse to specialist care and support including shelter for those that need it
- Counselling, psychological and spiritual support for children
- Integrate out of school children back into the education system
- Identify and train foster families for children separated from their families
Read our Family strategy grid.
Our partner network, CRANE, is coordinating a city-wide response to reintegrate children into families in Kampala, Uganda. Over the past five years, CRANE has reunited 1,016 children with their families. As well as working with local community, the network is engaging with city and national authorities to form a consortium that will tackle the need for children to be in families throughout the city. You can read about their first roundtable discussion here.
Read how CRANE are reintegrating children into families here.
UNICEF #ENDviolence website