Government sectors and charities need to work closely to overcome challenges in child protection and a strong and dedicated effort should be made to combat various issues in Laos, according to a United Nations official.

Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Laos, Ms Julia Rees, made the comments yesterday at the opening of a meeting to review the progress achieved to date in the Child Protection Programme.

“There are still some key challenges that need to be overcome, including the need to work more closely across all sectors of government on child protection issues, clarifying child protection roles and responsibilities for each sector,” Ms Rees said.

While government policies for mothers and children have reduced maternal and infant mortality rates, boosted vaccinations and improved education standards in schools, a number of negative practices still threaten the protection of children’s rights and interests in Laos.

These include drug abuse, violence to children and commercial activities related to child sexual exploitation, as well as issues related to orphans, disabled children, abandoned children, HIV/AIDS, unexploded ordnance and natural disaster-impacted children.

According to UNICEF child protection factsheets, a significant challenge to the development of a child protection system in Laos is the lack of qualified service providers, particularly social workers.

According to Ms Rees, strong and dedicated child protection professionals are required if the interests of children are to be adequately protected.

The professionals would provide family support and community-based child protection services to prevent, identify, refer and assist all children in need of protection.

The factsheets also indicate that a significant proportion of women who sell sex, commonly referred to as service women in Laos, are adolescents and there is no comprehensive legal body to address the needs of children in conflict and contact with the law.

Ms Rees said closer work among the government sectors should involve the strengthening of legal and policy frameworks to ensure all children are protected and none are forgotten.

She also suggested allocating and redirecting appropriate resources towards the further development of the child protection system.

At the meeting, which continues today, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Bounkhong Lasoukan, called on participants to analyse and clarify all information and data that reflects the situation of child development in the country in order to formulate a plan that will support more fruitful implementation.

Mr Bounkhong, who is also Vice Chairman of the National Commission for Mothers and Children, advised the participants to review the expansion of the child protection network in 400 villages across the country.

Concerted effort is needed in order to establish focal points in accordance with the Sam Sang (Three Builds) directive, to ensure the capacity of child protection for 108 villages in 51 districts nationwide will be strengthened by 2015.

Source: Vientiane Times
June 5, 2013