Programme aims to protect vulnerable children and reunite them with their families
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
KABUL, Afghanistan, 14 September 2012 - When Suraiya was 6 years old, her older brother eloped with a neighbour's daughter. In an attempt to buy peace, Suraiya's parents gave her to the neighbour's family.
Suraiya moved among a juvenile rehabilitation centre, a government-run shelter and an orphanage for four years. At the orphanage, she met a social worker. Trained and supported by UNICEF, the social worker counselled Suraiya for hours every day until she managed to locate the teenager's family.
Suraiya refused to return to her parents and now lives with her aunt, Rahila. Now 14, she shivers at the thought of the years she spent with the family while her parents turned a blind eye. Scars cover the girl's body, evidence of the atrocities she suffered.
But here with her loving aunt, she feels safe and protected and has started to pick up the pieces of her life.
Framework for the future
UNICEF's Chief of Child Protection Micaela Pasini stresses the critical role of the social workers in reuniting children with their families: "UNICEF, together with the Government of Afghanistan and its implementing partners, has been working to create qualified professional workers specializing in the protection of vulnerable children. This is so that many more children like Suraiya can be reintegrated into their families and communities and live in a protected environment."
Since 2010, 500 children in juvenile rehabilitation centres and detained by the police across Afghanistan have been released from detention and have successfully been reintegrated into their communities. Most of them had been accused of committing minor offences. With the timely intervention of social support groups and social workers, these children are now back with their families.
But a lot more needs to be done. There are still more than 800 children in juvenile rehabilitation centres across Afghanistan, and, according to 2008 data, more than 12,000 children, orphaned or not, are living in orphanages.
UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the national police in developing a framework in which children accused of minor offences are not put behind bars, but are instead counselled by the police, social workers and prosecutors and reunited with their families.