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Cablegate: Kenya Launches Child Helpline to Fight Child Abuse, Labor

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DE RUEHNR #1414/01 1621346
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101346Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6027
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS NAIROBI 001414

DEPT FOR AF/E, AF/EPS, G/TIP AND DRL/IL
DEPT ALSO PASS TO USTR FOR BILL JACKSON
DEPT ALSO PASS TO USTR FOR LEWIS KARESH
DEPT ALSO PASS TO DEPT OF LABOR FOR SUDHA HALEY, PATRICK WHITE AND
MICHAL MURPHY

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB KE
SUBJECT: KENYA LAUNCHES CHILD HELPLINE TO FIGHT CHILD ABUSE, LABOR
AND TRAFFICKING

1. Summary: The Ministry of Gender and Children's Affairs and
Childline Kenya officially launched the 116 Child Helpline joint
initiative on May 31, 2008. Children and others can call toll-free
on any landline or cell phone to report cases of child abuse, labor
or trafficking and receive counseling or referral to government or
NGO service providers. The Center received over 14,000 calls in
April and May, and we hope it will make a significant contribution
to improving the treatment of children in Kenya. End summary.

Background on Childline Kenya
------------------------------
2. In 2004, Plan International started the Childline Initiative as a
supplement to the Department of Children's Affairs help line, which
had become moribund. Plan International recruited Kenya's leading
child advocacy NGOs as members, including UNICEF, CRADLE, World
Vision, ANPPCAN, the Child Welfare Society of Kenya, and the Women's
Right Awareness Program. Plan International organized a Childline
Steering Committee to decide policy and strategic direction, and a
secretariat composed of the national coordinator and project team
for daily management. Then it spun Childline Kenya off into a
separate NGO.

3. Childline Kenya works to protect children from all forms of
violence and abuse and to create a culture of childrens rights
within Kenya so that crimes against children will not go
unchallenged. Its motto is "Break the silence on child abuse."

4. Childline Kenya provides a nation-wide 24-hour toll-free helpline
for counseling and referral services to children, young persons and
families in difficult situations. Childline's main strategy is to
link children with GOK agencies, partner NGOs, and professionals
with the capacity to provide the necessary services in the areas of
health, legal aid, counseling, rescue and emergency response, child
rights promotion, shelter, ICT, and advocacy work.

5. In late 2006 Childline Kenya began offering counseling services
through a toll-free number provided by parastatal Telkom Kenya.
From November 2006 to February 2007 it received a total of 2,258
calls from all over Kenya, an average of 15 calls/day. However, the
0800-221-0800 was difficult to remember, and only available via land
line, not to more numerous cell phone users. Despite some publicity
efforts, it was not widely known.

Struggle to Expand Operation
----------------------------
6. Throughout 2007, Childline lobbied the ICT regulator
Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and major cell phone
companies Safaricom and Celtel to establish a toll-free emergency
number for Childline. It also negotiated terms and conditions for a
joint operation with the Children's Department in the Ministry of
Home Affairs. The Department provided an expanded facility and
telcom connections for the Childline counselors, and co-located
several Children's Officers to enable quick action by filed officers
for referrals. The CCK authorized the 116 toll-free service in
December 2007. To assist Childline, the Embassy nominated the
Director for an International Visitors Program on NGO management,
which she found very useful. The Labor Officer also invited the
Director to make a presentation to the Donors Working Group on
Trafficking in Persons and Child Protection Issues.

Finally, the Launch of 116 Service
----------------------------------
7. In the deal between the governing Party of National Unity (PNU)
and the Opposition ODM establishing a coalition government,
Children's Services was moved from the Ministry of Home Affairs to
the renamed Ministry of Gender and Children's Affairs in early
April. 116 service and the joint Childline/Children's Services call
center began operations began in April 2008, but without great
fanfare while waiting for the Ministry to sort out the
reorganization. Finally, on May 31, Minister Esther Murugi
Mathenge, Permanent Secretary Leah Gwiyo, and Children's Affairs
Secretary Professor Jacqueline Oduol led a ceremony celebrating the
official launch of the Child Helpline. They claimed (incorrectly)
that this was the first child helpline in Africa and in the world,
and extolled the progress it marked in the protection of Kenya's
children.

8. Childline officials gave the Labor Officer a tour of the new
facility and introduced the volunteer counselors, all of whom are
students or graduates in social sciences or psychology. The Center
received 8,000 substantive calls in April and 6,000 in May, so
demand for assistance is strong, and knowledge of the service is
getting out to children and others. Most calls involve domestic
conflict, custody and maintenance issues, emotional abuse, child
labor, child prostitution, early or forced marriages, or general
counseling. Childline will keep monthly statistics to track the

complaints. Since demand threatens to overwhelm the current
facility, Childline's next goal is to open call centers in each of
the provinces.

Comment
-------
9. Kenya's provision of a toll-free child helpline that allows
qualified counselors to help children and connect them to service
providers is a significant step forward in Kenya's fight against
child abuse, trafficking and labor. The scarcity of resources
prevents the service providers from helping all children, especially
in urgent cases requiring transportation from remote locations.
However, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is
working with NGOs, community organizations, and professionals to
expand the directory of service providers to assist victims. We
hope the call center statistics will provide more insight into the
incidence and geographic concentration of the various forms of child
abuse.

RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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