|© Touching Tiny Lives/2006|
|Tumi, 2, is an orphaned child. She lost both her parents at the age of 4 months and came under the care of Touching Tiny Lives.|
By Clelia Barbadoro
MASERU, Lesotho, 17 March 2006 – The increasing rate at which children are being orphaned and abandoned in Lesotho has called for concerted action to regulate institutions that purport to be taking care of children.
Without guidelines regulating their conduct and standards of care, some ‘places of safety’ and residential homes – now mushrooming all over the country – expose already vulnerable children to further trauma, abuse and neglect.
In an effort to address this emerging phenomenon and ensure that the children of Lesotho receive adequate protection, care and support, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), supported by UNICEF, developed Lesotho-specific guidelines and standards regulating residential care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
|© UNICEF Lesotho/2006|
|Nthabeleng Machona, 17, and her 22-month-old baby girl, Tebello, found shelter and a welcoming home at the Sisters of Good Shepherd Centre.|
At a one-day meeting called by DSW, stakeholders from government, non-governmental organizations and development partners convened to endorse the national guidelines, and commit to collaboratively address the effective delivery of services and the protection of children in Lesotho.
“We support all endeavours geared towards protecting children and affording them the best possible standards of living. I ensure you that the recommendations emerging from this meeting will be presented to the highest echelons of authorities, including Parliament,” said Mr. Sello Maphalla, MP, member of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS.
The long-awaited guidelines will finally mandate the Department of Social Welfare to assess, register and monitor residential care dwellings. A timeframe has been set by which all existing homes should be in compliance with the set standards. Thereafter, homes should be registered, licensed and accredited by Social Welfare.
The guidelines and standards will be used countrywide among all service providers for children. They define clear roles and responsibilities for compliance in all areas, from the registration and licensing of homes, to identification of children, placement and provision of appropriate services – including adequate health, hygiene, education and psychosocial support.