Save the Children launched an EU-funded project on Wednesday – Responsive and Effective Child Welfare Systems Transformation (React) – which aims to ensure proper legal protection and quality services for children, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic service said.
The launch of the €3 million ($3.4million) project took place on Wednesday morning at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh.
“[The] aim [is] to ensure children are protected by legislative and regulatory frameworks, quality services and a safe, nurturing family within a community environment,” the EEAS said in a press release.
Save the Children Country Director Elizabeth Pearce said during the launching ceremony: “We are working to prevent children from being separated from their families and to increase the number of children that are safely and successfully integrated into family care.”
She said Cambodia had made remarkable progress in child support in many areas, but children still face several challenges.
“We tackle this by strengthening the government-led child protection system, in line with the UN’s Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children and the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, which includes a focus on family reunification, alternative care service provision and prevention of separation of children from their families,” Pearce said.
In 2017, there were 16,000 children living in child care centres throughout Cambodia, and 80 per cent of those have living parents.
Pearce said the children were often sent to child care centres by their parents or guardians, but according to international research, living in child care centres can have long-term side effects for children’s physical, social, mental and intellectual development.
Franck Viault, the EU delegation to Cambodia’s head of cooperation, said at the ceremony that investing in the promotion of the protection of the rights of the child is a priority for the EU.
“On Behalf of the EU delegation to Cambodia, I am very delighted to see our funded project is well in line with the UN’s 2010 Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, and contributes meaningfully to the implementation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation’s Action Plan for improving Childcare in Cambodia,” he said.
Viault said that between 2014 and 2020, the EU will have spent more than €400 million to assist children in Cambodia, and the React project is part of that plan because the issue remains a challenge.
Nim Thoth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the React project is a contribution to the Kingdom’s social sector to improve children’s situation, which is still a matter of concern.
“Past practices were incomplete and required improvements and the creation of additional budgetary support for vulnerable children,” he said.
The EEAS said the React project will enable Save the Children to bring together two major civil society networks working on child protections – the Family Care First network and the Partnership Programme for the Protection of Children (3PC) network.
It will also include Mith Samlanh, the Cambodian Children’s Trust and up to 13 additional international and local NGOs, to work hand-in-hand to promote and support child protection intervention in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kandal, Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap provinces.