UNICEF Applauds Government for Tackling Crisis Facing Children
KINGSTON, 15 October 2008 – UNICEF today applauded the Government of Jamaica for taking decisive action to prevent and curb the alarming and increasingly heinous crimes being committed against the nation’s children.
UNICEF commends in particular the establishment of the national task force on child abuse prevention, which has already put forward several recommendations for short-term action.
“The latest wave of attacks against children has been very disturbing,” said Nada Marasović, Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge of UNICEF Country Office for Jamaica.
Over the years, UNICEF has been working with a wide range of partners to prevent and reduce violence against children. The sexual abuse of children – and girls in particular – has been an especially difficult obstacle.
According to data from the Ministry of Health and Environment’s Annual Report 2006, out of a total number of 1,509 patients referred to health facilities due to sexual assaults, an alarming 78 per cent were children and adolescents (6 per cent boys; 94 per cent girls) aged 0-19 years.
According to the report, very young children, mostly girls, were sexually abused in 2006 - 76 children (14.5 per cent boys; 85.5 per cent girls) aged 0-4 years and 170 children (16.5 per cent boys; 83.5 per cent girls) aged 5-9 years, representing 21.3 per cent of the total number of sexual offences committed against persons in 2006. In the same year, only 20 per cent of rape cases were reported to the police.
Ms. Marasović said UNICEF is optimistic that a concerted response by government, child-focused agencies and everyday citizens will help to create a more protective environment and efficient and effective system of services for children.
UNICEF urges Parliament, among other measures being considered, to quickly adopt the National Plan of Action on an Integrated Response to Children and Violence – an important blueprint for a multifaceted approach to reducing violence against children.
In its collaborative work with the Government of Jamaica and its partners, UNICEF supports and advocates for long-term preventive efforts to tackle violence against children, including the improvement of parenting skills, life-skills based education and the promotion of positive forms of discipline.
Violence and other issues affecting Jamaican children will take center stage October 21-22 at the third Caribbean Child Research Conference to be held at the Pegasus hotel. The conference is funded by UNICEF and hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and several other partners.