A conference aimed at addressing issues surrounding the welfare of children kicked off on Monday in Phnom Penh.
The three-day conference, co-organised by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) – featured speakers representing various organisations from around the region.
The meeting’s attendees were made up of delegates from 21 Asia-Pacific countries. They discussed implementing key strategies to end violence against children across the health, social welfare, education, finance, and judicial sectors.
Unicef East Asia and Pacific Regional Office director Karin Hulshof said children remained susceptible to violence in their communities and schools – all of which, she thought, supposedly provides protection and a safe place for the “victims” – as well as from the internet.
“One in four children worldwide are abused by their caretakers,” said Hulshof, citing strategic guideline released by WHO in 2016.
A publication entitled Inspire, comprised seven strategies for ending violence against children. Each is underpinned by strong or promising evidence of success in high-income countries, with growing evidence that they also work in low- and middle-income countries.
Inspire mentions that up to one billion children have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence within a year prior to its release, according to a report estimation.
Hulshof applauds Cambodia for being the first country in the region to conduct a comprehensive national survey to address children’s exposure to violence.
The 2013 countrywide survey revealed that more than half the children in Cambodia are physically abused, which caused the government to create child-safety commitments for various ministries.
Social Affairs Minister Vong Sauth said Cambodia had implemented a national action plan to combat violence against children.
“The Cambodian government has adopted a five-year multi-sectoral and interministerial plan to address violence against children in compliance with international policies and practices,” he said, referring to the long-awaited Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children which was unveiled last year.
“Cambodia would like to share experiences and good practices in mitigating violence against children. So far, we are leading in the region for having conducted an evidence-based survey to determine the broad scope and impact of this issue,” he said.
However, Sauth acknowledged that the Kingdom is struggling with resources in responding to and preventing children’s exposure to violence.
“Cambodia still faces some problems amid the implementation of the action plan, such as a lack of a systematic mechanism, low human capacity, and limited financial resources to protect the children,” he said.
He said the full realisation of the plan lies not only with the government but also with every citizen who has responsibilities to children.
“Solving discrimination and abuses of children, under any circumstances, won’t be effective without the engagement of all relevant stakeholders."
“I welcome the engagement of international NGOs, civil society, teachers and parents as they are the potential forces to combat violence against children,” he said.
Last month, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation released two roadmaps to reform the Kingdom’s child welfare system in collaboration with Unicef.