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European Plan Combats Deadly Family Child Abuse


UN Agencies Launch European Campaign To Combat Deadly Family Child Abuse

With family violence killing four children under the age of 14 each day in Europe, and many thousands more enduring years of abuse for every child who dies, the United Nations has launched a continent-wide campaign against the scourge, declaring that “Home sweet home” is a myth for many children.

“For the survivors, the impact lasts a lifetime,” World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, Marc Danzon, said at yesterday’s launch. “Data confirm that abused children pay a long-term price as they are more likely to take dangerous risks in their own lives. This adds to the price our whole society pays with suicides, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency and domestic violence.”

The campaign is a prelude to the “Stop Violence Against Children. Act Now” regional consultation for Europe and Central Asia, to be held from 5 to 7 July in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The meeting, hosted by the Slovenian Government will tap into the expertise of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO and the Council of Europe as well as input from civil society, including children themselves.

The meeting will also feed into next year’s study on violence against children, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which will look at the different settings in which children suffer violence, including the home. The place where they spend up to 90 per cent of their time – the place where they should be safest – is for too many the most dangerous of all. A UNICEF youth poll in 2001 found that 60 per cent of children in Europe and Central Asia say they face violent or aggressive behaviour at home from parents and caregivers.

“The cosy assumption that children are always safe and protected in their own homes is called into question by the evidence,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Baltic States. “The study on violence against children challenges us to get a true picture of the scale of the problem but it also presents us with a powerful opportunity to address it. How can we support families in stress and prevent violence in the first place? And how can society create an environment that protects children? These are questions we want to answer,” she added.

Drug and alcohol abuse are among the most common and serious family problems contributing to violence against children in the home. Estimates from industrialized countries suggest that between 40 per cent and 70 per cent of men who use physical violence against their partners also use violence against their children, and that about half of the women who are physically abused also abuse their children.

The good news is that child deaths from maltreatment appear to be declining in the great majority of industrialized countries.

The study will recall that all countries must enact or repeal legislation as needed to prohibit all forms of violence, however slight, within the family. The different patterns of family abuse must be addressed. And concrete interventions must be made for different groups of children according to their age, their vulnerability, and their evolving capacities as subjects of human rights.

The WHO world report on violence and health outlines some effective solutions, including training in parenting, providing parents with information about child development and teaching them to use consistent child-rearing methods and to manage family conflict. It also proposes home visiting programmes involving regular visits from a nurse or other health professional to families in special need of support with childcare or where there is an identified risk of child maltreatment.

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