Multiple reasons heighten risk and vulnerability among children in South Asia
GN Bureau | February 28, 2018
An estimated 43 million children, out of 153 million globally, who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia. The region is prone to natural disasters and conflict, making the children extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse. Even though the vulnerabilities of orphan and abandoned children in the entire South Asia is huge, none of the countries in the region has any concrete data of how many children live outside family care, making it extremely difficult to address their concerns effectively.
The region has low economical status and poverty is prevalent. Issues of migration and livelihoods force families to abandon their child and enter informal or formal forms of alternative care. In extreme circumstances when children cannot live with their family or close relatives, such vulnerable children are pushed to alternative care where they are expected to be taken care of by the state.
There is a need to strengthen the Alternative Care for Children (ACC). There is also a need to strengthen family-based care in order to prevent children from entering alternative care facilities.
However, the absence of data makes this task extremely difficult for organisations involved in childcare.
“There is dearth of evidence-based research studies and authentic segregated data on this issue in the region. There is a need to come out with that data on a priority basis,” says Dr Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee, Udayan Care. “The lack of these numbers leads to low investments and financing from the governments. If you see the recent budget announced by the Govt of India, the total budgetary allocation for children is at 3.2% only.”
“We need to push the agenda of improving alternative care of children to the centre stage in the governments of these countries, and develop a common regional framework to track progress of implementing the UN guidelines on Alternative Care at the regional level,” adds Dr Modi.
South Asian region can: a) improve knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings, b) examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on ACC in South Asia, and c) share and exchange experiences, research and models of care on ACC in South Asia. Towards this, Udayan Care has been organising biennial international conference on different aspects of Alternative Care with a focus on South Asia, since 2014.
Putting together data of vulnerable children living in out-of-home-care is crucial and will help both the policy makers and community organizations create a robust plan for combatting issues of vulnerable children in the region.
In 2017, South Asia was impacted by large-scale natural and human-caused disasters. One of the worst floods in decades affected more than 40 million people and killed over 2,000 people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. By August end, thousands of Rohingya fled into Bangladesh following large-scale violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state. This triggered one of the fastest growing humanitarian crises in the world, with 623,000 Rohingya, half of whom are children, having fled the country by November 2017. There are expected 15000 orphans and unaccompanied children caught in the strife in Bangladesh. Afghanistan remains fourth on the global risk index and home to one of the most violent armed conflicts and protracted crises in the world. Malnutrition is a major challenge in Afghanistan, where 1.3 million children under 5 require treatment for acute malnutrition, and polio transmission remains endemic in the eastern part of the country.
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