By 2007, children will have access to institutionalized and coordinated protection services.
UNICEF Maldives has identified the following strategies to address the challenges described above and achieve our programme result:
Supporting Drug Prevention and Building up Child Protection Safety Net
The support UNICEF Maldives provides to recovering drug addicts and those affected by substance misuse is one of few projects of its kind globally. Though substance abuse is not one of UNICEF’s global organizational priorities, nearly all Maldivians deal with substance misuse either directly or indirectly in their lives. Most children in the Maldives are introduced to the protection system only through drug-related arrests. It is therefore critical that UNICEF provide protection and recovery services for these children, who frequently bear additional, less visible signs of abuse.
UNICEF support to the country’s drug misuse problem has facilitated the start of the first-ever Drug Rehabilitation Center for children aged 18 and below. Four 12-Step support groups have also been started in Male’ and Himmafushi, with an estimated 150 addicts attending each week, and the first-ever Narcotics Anonymous chapter has been initiated in the Maldives. Still, much more needs to be done.
UNICEF’s approach focuses on building up the overall child protection system, strengthening reintegration and recovery services, and creating community awareness about the harmful effects of substance misuse.
On November 29, 2007, UNICEF will support the National Narcotics Control Bureau (NNCB) in its launch of a national drug prevention awareness campaign targeting young people (including those most at risk), as well as police, teachers, parents and others. The campaign aims to highlight the harmful effects of substance misuse. Focus will also be placed on establishing community-based activities to promote a drug-free lifestyle and to provide children and young people with life skills and recreational opportunities. Drug prevention interventions, including harm reduction, will also serve to prevent the transmission of HIV/Hepatitis C.
Raising the voices of children and youth has also been important to increasing awareness of the issue and of its impact on young people. Several films produced after UNICEF Maldives’ last one-minute film-making workshop – in which 20 children and youth each produced a film – spoke out about the drug issue, along with other themes such as gender-based violence. The films on the drug issue are so powerful that the Maldivian police have begun to use them as a part of training programs that aim to raise awareness among police officers.
Together with UNOPS, UNICEF is undertaking the renovation of Greenge, the NNCB’s aftercare center in Male’, to help provide aftercare and vocational opportunities for young recovering substance misusers. UNICEF also works with a range of partners to strengthen referral, assessment and service provision mechanisms for children at risk or who are victims of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The system will address such underlying factors, which often manifest themselves in children experimenting and misusing substances as coping mechanisms.
UNICEF is also supporting groundbreaking initiatives on acquiring critically needed data on child protection issues in the Maldives. By mid 2008, data will be available for the first time on the prevalance of violence against children in the Maldives, as wel as key underlying causes of abuse. UNICEF is also working with several partners to develop and implement a national, coordinated child protection database that will keep records of all child protection data in the country as well as ensure that children are referred appropriately throughout a protection system.
Looking Forward: Beyond the Tsunami Response