Child protection

Protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Children holding hands in the Philippines


Violence, exploitation and abuse occur in the homes, families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities across all contexts, including as a result of conflict and natural disasters.

Many children are exposed to various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation, armed violence, trafficking, child labour, gender-based violence, bullying, among others.

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse

girl uses her smart phone

Many of these problems cut across age, sex, race, religion and class. Children may suffer abuse whether their families are rich or poor. Nonetheless, inequality plays a role. Programmes and services that may help prevent violations or provide remedies are less available to the poor and marginalized.

social worker picks up a child, smiling

There is significant evidence that violence, exploitation and abuse can affect the child’s physical and mental health in the short and longer term


For this reason, and because of the range and complexity of child protection issues, UNICEF advocates the development of national child protection systems or stronger child and family welfare systems, much like the education and health systems that countries established decades ago. This approach is more comprehensive than dealing with each protection issue separately. It requires collaboration from legal and regulatory systems, social welfare systems, and behaviour change systems.

By nature, a systems-building approach obliges governments to extend a wider range of services to all communities and groups, reducing disparities in the process. A systems-building approach is more effective, resource efficient and sustainable for achieving long-term positive impacts on protecting children. While governments provide leadership, this approach also requires partnerships with a broad range of actors including civil society, faith-based organizations, community leaders, social workers, teachers and law enforcement officers.

a father in Mongolia holds his daughter

Strengthening social work as a profession is critical to building these systems. UNICEF has helped develop training programmes and guidelines for this in several countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Viet Nam.

Other interventions include:

  • Under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 on Children Affected by Armed Conflict, UNICEF has and will continue to gather information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and on other violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict.
  • UNICEF champions alternatives to institutions such as orphanages, in order to strengthen and preserve families.
  • UNICEF has initiatives to improve how justice systems in 11 countries deal with children. These include developing child-friendly procedures for investigations and conduct in courtrooms, as well as training of law enforcement officials.
  • UNICEF works with partner agencies to develop a package of evidence to inform and mobilize governments in the region to address child protection issues and develop child protection systems.