Child protection in Ghana is worsening -UNICEF

UNICEF is blaming the increasing numbers of orphanages in the country on the failure of the country’s child protection system, despite efforts by the authorities to ensure child protection.

The United Nations Agency for Children (UNICEF) according to a Ghana News Agency report has stated that about 5,000 children live in orphanages and other residential care institutions in Ghana.

The UN agency also noted that from global research, children thrive in a family environment, but their development and protection are often hampered when they grow in institutions.

The revelations were made at a validation workshop in the Upper West Regional capital, Wa as part of the national child protection baseline survey. The survey is part of the development of a national child protection system and juvenile justice for the country.

According to UNICEF, a new national child policy framework to be drafted by government with support from development partners would be ready by end off 2013.

UNICEF says the new policy framework would incorporate the design of a child and family welfare service delivery and juvenile systems. These would draw on the strengths of existing community structures and traditions while outlining a realistic, sustainable and culturally appropriate system based on a dynamic partnership between the formal systems and communities.

Even though Ghana has admittedly made significant strides in its child protection efforts through ratification, law reforms, and enactment of various legislation and formulation of social policies, the protection of children is still an issue.

Available statistics from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) as well as stakeholder offices handling abuse against children are startling. While a total of 4674 cases of non-maintenance were recorded in 2010, the number shot up to 5489 cases.

UNICEF is of the view that the country’s failure is as a result of the non-existence of a national Child Protection Policy amidst a wide disconnect between child protection Laws and the general practice of Law in the country.

“Efforts to improve justice for children have not been integrated into the broader justice sector reforms,” UNICEF has stated.

The organization has therefore called for the creation of a protective environment for children, where they are free from violence, exploitation and unnecessary separation from family.

It is anticipated that a strong legal and policy framework coupled with behaviour and practices that reduce vulnerability of children strengthen child protection in the country.