|UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with teenagers at the UNICEF-supported child-protection centre in Angondgé, a neighbourhood of Libreville, Gabon's capital.|
By Omar Habib
LIBREVILLE, Gabon, 7 July 2010 – On a recent trip to Gabon, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with children living in a child-protection centre supported by UNICEF in Angondgé, a neighbourhood of Libreville, the capital.
The Angondjé centre accommodates boys and girls up to 18 years of age from various nationalities and religions. The children come to the centre for many different reasons.
For example, two Gabonese children – Emma and Jo, 2 and 5 years of age, respectively – are here because their mother died and their father cannot find employment. Amy, 12, a Congolese girl, was accused of sorcery. Mady, a 13-year-old Malian, is a victim of early marriage. And Uché, 14, a Nigerian, has been sexually abused.
A second chance for children
The centre offers the children shelter, education, health care and psycho-social support. The ultimate goal is to reunite the children with their families in Gabon or other countries in region. For those who are orphans or can no longer reintegrate with their original families, legal adoption to welcoming families is an option. Every month, at least four children leave the centre and start a new life.
|UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre), Minister of Health, Social Affairs, National Solidarity and the Family Alphonsine Mbie Na and UNICEF Deputy Representative in Gabon Dr. Speciose Hakizimana visit children at the Angondjé child-protection centre.|
Angondjé is one of four centres in Gabon providing protection to children. Since 2010, UNICEF has assisted hundreds of victims of child trafficking in the region.
Child trafficking and abuse are a sad reality for many children in Gabon, particularly in the main cities of Libreville, Port Gentil, Franceville, Moanda, Tchibanga and Mouila. Addressing these issues is a complex matter that requires the engagement of many counterparts; the Angondjé centre is a critical link in the long chain of intervention and resolution. Other key links are the Department of Health and Social Affairs, the Justice Department, non-governmental organizations and the UNICEF-supported initiative, ‘Police amie des enfants’ (Police, friends of children).
“Projects like this for the children show the results that can be achieved through partnership between the state, civil society, private businesses, religious institutions and the United Nations – in this case through UNICEF,” said Mr. Ban. “The difference you make to each child’s life is incalculable. You are giving them a second chance.”
'Great hope for the future'
At the end of his visit to the centre, Mr. Ban declared: “Everyone – government, business, civil society, the police – must play their part in creating and implementing laws to protect children. A society is judged by its treatment of its weakest and most vulnerable members. What I have seen here today is a sign of great hope for the future.”
Before leaving, the Secretary-General wrote in centre’s guest book: “I am impressed about what I have seen in this child protection centre. I acknowledge all donors that are providing their support.”
UNICEF National Committees from the United Kingdom and Spain are among the main donors supporting child-protection centres in Gabon. More financial resources are required, however, to rescue more children from trafficking and abuse here.
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