Nepal: Stronger child protection needed for flood-displaced
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||18 September 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Stronger child protection needed for flood-displaced, 18 September 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d74b6f9d.html [accessed 20 April 2014]|
SAPTARI, 18 September 2008 (IRIN) - As the numbers of people displaced by floods living in camps in eastern Nepal grow, aid workers are calling for stronger child protection measures.
More than 60,000 people are displaced after the Koshi River - Nepal's largest - burst its banks last month, flooding the Sunsari and Saptari districts.
Of these, an estimated 20,000 are children younger than 18.
"The vulnerability of the children will definitely grow in the coming months as they will be living in the camps for a long time," warned Devika Neupane, chief of the government-run Women's Development Office (WDO), in Saptari.
WDO is involved in coordinating local child-rights NGOs involved in protection activities in the district with support from Save the Children and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Although humanitarian assistance has addressed child protection, more needed to be done on key issues such as tracing missing and separated children, providing psycho-social care for traumatised children, preventing social discrimination, and creating a child-friendly environment, according to agencies.
The new Child Protection Monitoring Team, comprising 17 members from government and NGOs, supported by Save the Children and UNICEF, has been advocating for protection.
More efficiency needed
While pressure is mounting on the humanitarian agencies to provide regular relief supplies to the displaced families living in several camps in Saptari and Sunsari, there is concern among some agencies that the government has failed to do much on the issue of child protection and is completely dependent on the NGOs.
"There is a need for effective coordination among NGOs. There is a shortage of professional staff with expertise to deal with child protection issues during such an emergency period," said one local aid worker, who asked not to be identified.
There are virtually no psycho-social counsellors in Saptari, where several children were badly traumatised by the floods and needed urgent attention, he said.
Moreover, some NGOs with little experience have reportedly started spreading rumours of sexual abuse and rapes without any investigation or proper analysis, he added.
There also remains concern over the lack of special care for lactating mothers and pregnant women who fall under the child protection cluster.
There is still no separate camp for safe maternal services, according to some NGOs.
Their hopes now rest with UNICEF and Save the Children, which are planning to create separate maternal healthcare services as part of their "Safe Space" programmes, a special initiative for children between three and five years old, providing recreation and feeding facilities and most importantly, child-friendly spaces.
"The impact is really good already. Children who were scared are now gradually seen behaving in a normal and relaxed manner," Hajra Sabnam, a programme officer for Save the Children, which has already launched 10 safe spaces, reaching more than 300 children, with the help of local NGO partners.
The agency has started to train displaced women to work as facilitators to run the camps, Sabnam said.
UNICEF is also launching such a programme in more than 20 camps, targeting 600 under-fives.
Nearly 30 children went missing after they were separated from their parents while fleeing the flooded areas.
Before the floods, some children had been domestic workers in other households, while others were herding cattle, and in this way became separated from their families.
UNICEF, the local NGO Youth Empowerment Foundation and the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) are helping to find the children.
There are also nine children who are looking for their parents. Rescue workers are struggling to trace the parents, according to the agencies. They had no choice but to visit each of the thousands of shelters to ask if there was any family whose children had been lost.
"Dealing with the missing and separation cases is a very difficult job. It remains the most crucial issue for the government also," explained WDO's Neupane.