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"Hello 111": a toll free number to break the silence and protect children from violence in Togo.

Lome, Togo, 7 January 2009 - In Togo, despite the considerable efforts of the Government and partners in the development, polls nonetheless prove numerous cases of children’s right violation such as the absence of proper family care, the worst forms of child labor as well as instances of violence, exploitation and sexual abuse.

An estimated 29% of children from 5 to 14 years old are used for economic and domestic activities that are considered harmful to their development. Many children fall victim to internal and international trafficking and sexual abuse.

The results of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted in 2006 indicated that 1 out of 4 children are subject to severe corporal punishment. In addition more than one four marriages are early (with the girl under 18). The births of 50% of children are not registered within the time prescribed by law, depriving them of a legal identity and affecting their fundamental rights.
 
Between 2005 and 2006, over 747 cases of child abuse came to the attention of the authorities. In spite of the lack for reliable data, partly due to its clandestine nature and in part because of the low level of reporting, child prostitution is a phenomenon which constitutes a major problem which has been on the rise for some time, particularly in the capital.

Accelerated urbanization and the growth of Lome coupled with the socio economical complexities of the country increases the vulnerability of poor children in the city and that of their families. The rapid and uncontrolled expansion of the urban population has pushed the population of Lome, previously a small and safe city, to close to a fifth of the total population.

Poverty, ignorance and the limited value paced on children’s welfare in the city represent are underlying causes of the current abuses of children’s rights. The MICS shows, 69 out of 100 Togolese live below the poverty-line, on less than $2 per day. Almost half of the Togolese population is under 18 years of age (2 839 million). Extreme poverty affects a large majority of the children in the country.

A toll free support line
However, it is not impossible to protect these children. One of the strategies being put in place is a free Child Help Line, which will allow children or adults to call social workers to report child abuse. Trained teams will be able to respond to reports of abuse. From January 7th, 2009 Hello 111, a toll free number will be accessible to all.

The hotline will offer referral which can potentially lead to different interventions for children’s protection; social workers, police and legal services will be linked to the Help Line teams. It is hoped that Hello 111 will break the silence which often surrounds child abuse and protects the abuser.
 
The project will have a second function; it will contribute to the documentation of violence and maltreatment cases and help build a dependable data base pertaining to all the forms of brutality perpetrated against children in Togo. It has the potential to lead Togo’s protective services to improved inter-sectoral targeted actions in for child protection.

For Una McCauley, UNICEF’s Representative in Togo, this telephone line, which can be used by victims and witnesses, will contribute significantly “to improve child protection systems against all types of children’s rights violations in Togo, to help direct victims to competent services and raise public awareness of the menace of child abuse”.

In November 2008, 27 social workers were hired and trained on how to handle calls and refer incidents to the experts in different services. Six social workers will make up a full time team at the Hello 111 listening centre at any one time.

The hotline is the result of concerted action of the Government, in particular of the Ministry for Social Action,  Promotion of Women, Child and Elderly People’s Protection along with partners in the development such as UNICEF, Terre des Hommes, Care International, Wao Africa, Plan Togo, the ICCB and the FODDET. The initiative also supported by private companies such as Togo Telecom, Moov Togo and PROGOSA.

For further information, please contact: 
Essi Fafa SOULE
Information Officer : Tel: +223 15 10 910 96 59, Email: fsoule@unicef.org

 

 
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