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Commitment to protecting the children of Darfur

KHARTOUM/AMMAN 12 June 2006 – UNICEF today welcomed the outcomes of a landmark child protection workshop for Darfur, organized 7-9 June in collaboration with the Darfur States and the National Council for Child Welfare.

The workshop was built on an independent situation analysis of child protection in Darfur identifying a number of risks and vulnerabilities that children face such as recruitment of children by armed groups and forces, child labour, sexual and gender-based violence, abandonment of babies, separation from families and psycho-social distress as well as early marriage and female genital mutilation.

The two-day workshop, with the participation of government bodies, sister agencies, local and international non-governmental organizations and donors, was a major step in reaching an agreement in addressing these critical issues as well as improving monitoring and reporting systems, discussing legal reforms and finding ways to raise awareness and capacity building for all parties involved in the process.

 “This consultation on child protection in Darfur is a unique opportunity to make a real difference for children in Darfur,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.  “The participants at this workshop have developed very practical ways and means to address the protection issues identified in the situation analysis.  The well-being and protection of children is central to peace in Darfur.”

The Assistant to the President of Sudan, Dr. Nafi Ali Nafi, who was joined by Abdul Basit Sabdrat, Minister of Federal Affairs, and Dr. Sami Abduldaiem, State Minister of Social Welfare and Women and Child Affairs, emphasised the link between the Darfur Peace Agreement and the workshop and committed to close follow-up by the Government on the actions identified in the Plan.

Among the agreements reached at the workshop are:
• Development of an awareness campaign on child protection covering, among other issue, female genital mutilation, early marriage, as well as sexual abuse and exploitation.
• Providing support to the Police for maintaining data on crimes against children, and training of Police Officers and Judiciary on child protection and child-friendly procedures in dealing with children in contact with the law.
• Providing services for children who are being reintegrated into society, such as child recruits and street children.  This includes psycho-social support, vocational training and catch-up education.
• Legal reform in a number of areas, for instance around the issue of the age of the child, the age of criminal responsibility and the age of marriageability.

The Darfur Peace Agreement recognizes protection issues facing children in Darfur, especially in relation to ending abuse and exploitation of children.  The Agreement includes steps to improve services for children and women in contact with the law through the establishment of child and women protection units in the police. Furthermore, it includes a commitment to release all boys and girls from armed groups and forces.

UNICEF is currently negotiating the release of child soldiers with the concerned parties and preparing programmes for the reintegration of these children.  Recruitment of children is recognized as an illegal act under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the release and reintegration of children is rightly reflected as a top priority under the Darfur Peace Agreement.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information and inquiries in English and Arabic, please contact:
Ghada Kachachi, Child Protection Officer- Khartoum,  gkachachi@unicef.org, +249 912 167 624
Roshan Khadivi, News Desk-Khartoum, rkhadivi@unicef.org; +249 912 177 291
Anis Salem, News Desk-Amman, asalem@unicef.org; +962 795 579 991




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