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UNICEF: child maltreatment in East Asia and the Pacific

UNICEF: High prevalence of child maltreatment in East Asia and the Pacific - stronger focus on prevention needed

New York/Bangkok/Suva 7 August 2012 - Unacceptable physical abuse is causing long-term damage to the lives and futures of far too many children in East Asia and the Pacific, according to a report to be released by UNICEF tomorrow.

The report, titled Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences in East Asia and Pacific, is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of existing studies undertaken by experts and academics about child maltreatment in the region. It examines studies produced between January 2000 and November 2010.

Estimates of the frequency of physical abuse of children vary from country to country and from study to study. Estimates from the Pacific show that as many as 8 out of 10 children in the Pacific experience physical abuse (According to Child Protection Baseline Study, UNICEF Pacific. www.unicefpacific.org).

The prevalence of severe physical abuse ranges from nine per cent to nearly one in four children in the region, according to the studies. Severe physical abuse includes beatings, including those inflicted by fists or implements, which result in physical injury.

The damage to children caused by sexual and physical abuse is often very serious and lifelong. Children who are abused, neglected, exploited or experience violence are more likely to be depressed and experience other types of mental health problems, to think about or attempt suicide, to have more physical symptoms (both medically explained and unexplained), and to engage in more high-risk behaviours than their non-abused counterparts, the report finds. It also finds that children who been victimized more than once are far more likely to experience serious long-term consequences – the impact of abuse is cumulative.

“Child maltreatment has harmful long-term consequences, not only for the children suffering the abuse, but also for the families and societies in which they live,” explained Amalee McCoy, UNICEF Regional Child Protection Specialist. “Understanding the prevalence of child maltreatment is a first step towards identifying the right measures to make every child in the region safer.”

UNICEF Pacific Child Protection Specialist, Salote Kaimacuata said “Child Protection baseline studies that reviewed existing laws, social services and community involvement was undertaken by UNICEF Pacific’s child protection team with several Departments of Social Welfare in the Pacific, in 2009. Out of those studies, the most prevalent finding was that most communities in the survey did not have plans in place to help keep children safe from violence.”

Among other findings, the UNICEF review reveals that between 14% and 30% of the region’s boys and girls report experiencing forced sex, and for many young people their first experiences of sexual intercourse is forced.

“We need to strengthen national child protection systems to protect children who are already experiencing harm, and to create environments where abuse is prevented and the risks of violence to children are mitigated,” McCoy added.

The East Asia–Pacific region, with 580 million children or over one quarter of the world’s children, includes some of the most densely populated and culturally diverse places in the world. It is doubly distressing, therefore, that this review of all the research on the prevalence, incidence and consequences of child maltreatment revealed a consistently high prevalence of child maltreatment throughout the region.

“Although some violence is unexpected and isolated, most violence against children is carried out by people children know and should be able to trust and look to for protection, such as parents, step-parents or parents’ partners, extended family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, schoolmates, teachers and religious leaders. Every child must be protected from all forms of violence and abuse. We – families, communities and authorities are responsible for ensuring this protection,” said Ms. Kaimacuata.

She added “let us remember that each child has the right to grow up free of fear, violence and exploitation. Help us make that a reality.”

The special regional report and its findings will be reviewed by child protection experts from Governments, the UN system and civil society at a brainstorming meeting hosted by UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization and the Queensland University of Technology, at the Pullman Hotel in Bangkok tomorrow.

The report can be found: http://www.unicef.org/eapro/Child_Maltreatment.pdf

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org/eapro/Child_Maltreatment.pdf

ENDS

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