The Action Plan is a joint Government and LTTE plan to address the needs of children affected by war. The Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process is the main Government counterpart and the Ministry of Social Service is the technical Government counterpart. UNICEF facilitated the development of the Plan and is working with a number of partners including the Save the Children, UNDP, ILO and TRO to implement the Action Plan. One of the ten components of the Action Plan is the establishment of a mechanism for the release and reintegration of underage recruits through temporary transit centres.
The Action Plan is a holistic programme that addresses the needs of 50,000 children affected by war in the North and East of Sri Lanka. This includes children who may have been engaged in hazardous labour, have become street children, or have been recruited as child soldiers. These children will be provided with comprehensive support to go back to school and with psychosocial healing and health care. For children who are above school-age, there will be specialised vocational training so they can learn a trade. For families who are struggling to support their children due to poverty, there will be micro-credit and income generation support. The total cost of this 2-3 year programme is US$14,165,000.
There will be three transit centres in Kilinochchi, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. The inauguration of the Kilinochchi transit centre will be on 3 October 2003. The other two transit centres are under construction. Each transit centre can house up to 150 children at any given time.
It is expected that the first group of children released to the Kilinochchi transit center will be about 50 boys and girls who have been with the LTTE for varying periods of time. Some may have been with the LTTE for a month; some may have been with the LTTE for a year. Every child released from the LTTE is another child out of a hazardous environment and on the path to be back with their families. UNICEF has reports from parents of 1,155 children who are still with the LTTE. UNICEF is advocating for those children to be released to the transit centre.
Most children will be able to go back to their families after an initial assessment in the transit centre. It is important to note that there is a difference between assessment and rehabilitation. Transit centres are just for assessment. Rehabilitation will occur when the child is back with their family and community. A few children, who are unable to go back to their families due to family problems, may need an alternative care solution such as staying with extended family, or staying in a children’s home for some time. No child will be at the transit centre for more than three months.
The child’s reintegration and rehabilitation needs when they are back in the community will be looked after by a Save the Children social worker. These social workers will ensure that the child has access to catch-up education, vocational training (such as to learn a trade) and psychosocial and health support.
If the family is too poor to be able to afford to have the child back home, the Action Plan will provide specific support in the form of micro-credit, grants and vocational training for the child and their family.
Management of the transit centre will be by UNICEF and TRO. UNICEF has employed two international staff and five national staff to manage each of the three transit centres. All transit centre staff have been provided with training by the Ministry of Social Welfare (specifically the National Institute of Social Development). UNICEF will have international staff present in each transit centre on a 24 hour basis. The LTTE will not have access to the transit centre.
The approximate cost to set up and run one transit centre and its associated assessment services for one year is US$244,000. All supplies are purchased by UNICEF. The total cost of US$244,000 includes:
Construction of dormitories, latrines, wells, recreation hall, parents lodge etc.
Purchase of furniture by UNICEF including bunk beds, cupboards, dining tables, chairs, office furniture, computers, TV, video and sporting equipment.
Purchase and management of one landcruiser and two generators by UNICEF (UNICEF retains ownership and use of these assets).
Hiring of one van for transporting children
Food and care for approx 150 children for one year
Salaries of transit centre staff
Vehicle maintenance and fuel, telephone costs, travel, staff training etc.
All funds for the transit centre are being managed by UNICEF. US$300,000 has been advanced to the TRO for the first stage of construction of the three transit centres, recruitment of transit centre staff and the initial running costs detailed above. These funds will be subject to UNICEF’s strict and rigorous financial rules and regulations, as well as close monitoring of their use.
The majority of the Action Plan focuses on the reintegration and rehabilitation of the child at family and community level. Of the total cost of US$14.165 million, US$4 million is for microcredit facilities and income generation (managed by UNDP); US$2.22 million is for vocational training (managed by ILO); and US$1.326 million is for the transit centres (managed by UNICEF).
In the transit centre, all the child’s health needs will be addressed. When the child arrives they will be given a health check by the District Medical Officer of the Deputy Provincial Director of Health Services (DPDHS) and any immediate health concerns will be treated. A qualified nurse will be at the transit centre at all times. In case of an emergency, there will always be transport available to take the child immediately to the Kilinochchi hospital.
UNICEF continues to advocate with the LTTE for an end to child recruitment. As of 30 September 2003, UNICEF has received 1,683 reports of children who have been recruited by the LTTE. 385 underage recruits have been released. 1,155 children from the UNICEF list of reported cases remain with the LTTE. In January 2003, there were 114 reports of underage recruitment. Since January there has been some decrease in reports of underage recruitment, however, there has been a slight increase in reports since June 2003, with 56 reports of recruitment in June, 45 reports in July, 57 in August and 52 reports of recruitment in September. Every report of underage recruitment is of concern to UNICEF and jeopardises the success of the Action Plan for Children Affected by War. UNICEF continues to advocate with the LTTE for the immediate release of all these children.
For more information please contact:
Surani Abeyeskerera, UNICEF. Tel: 01-2555270 Ext. 243, or 0777416739