Statement attributable to Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for the Latin America and the Caribbean
PANAMA CITY, 9 March – “We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of more than 20 girls in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción shelter in Guatemala as a result of a fire in which many others were injured. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the people of Guatemala.
“We join the United Nations System in Guatemala in expressing deep sorrow at this terrible event, and in calling for measures to ensure that proper protocols for the protection of children are in place. We trust that the Government of Guatemala will fulfill its duty to investigate the incident, identify those responsible and provide reparations to the victims.
“As the UN agency responsible for promoting children’s rights around the world, UNICEF reminds the Guatemalan authorities of their obligation to guarantee the life and integrity of all children and adolescents.
“To that end, we call for the urgent creation of a national system of child protection, and a governing body to ensure its compliance with the best interests of the child, in line with the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and with the support of the UNICEF office in the country.
“We renew our call for the Government of Guatemala and all the governments of the region, as parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to end the institutionalization of children and adolescents. At least 240,000 children still live in institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children indicate that sending children to institutions should always be the last option, a temporary measure and always for the shortest possible time. Children have the right to grow up in a family and to have the support of the State so that families can fulfill their responsibilities. The confinement of children and adolescents for their "protection" is inadmissible.”
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