Saving the childrenAs the welfare of kids is linked to their parents, livelihood programmes for adults could aid child protection
The Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have guided the socio-economic development process in most developing countries. In the context of Nepal, the harmonisation of the MDGs in the country’s development plans and their effectual execution have resulted in an increased access to education, health, drinking water and sanitation for a large segment of the population. The MDGs have also placed emphasis on shared responsibilities among the developed and developing countries for global partnerships to reduce poverty and other socio-economic deprivations. As a result, financial and technical assistance to developing and least developed countries like Nepal has increased significantly.
This article discusses the achievements of the MDGs in terms of children, and the government’s efforts during the 15-year commitment period. It also points out the challenges faced during the process and discusses possible ways forward towards
creating a better future for the country’s children.
Overall, the access of Nepali children to basic social services has expanded in the last decade. Universal primary school enrolment has reached 95 percent, basic education 87.5 percent and secondary education 32 percent. In terms of health, the under-five child mortality rate came down to 55 per 1,000 births in 2011 compared to 118 in 1996. Maternal mortality has been reduced to 250 compared to 539 earlier. All these statistics indicate momentous achievements with regard to child welfare.
Writing about the Millennium Development Goals and children Prof Bishwa Keshar Maskay mentions: “The Post-2015 Development Agenda provides plenty of examples where the Nepali government is determined to make the vision of MDGs a reality.” His paper states that the government has kept the health, education and wellbeing of children at the heart of the policies and programmes which indeed is noticeable.
Taking the importance of child development into consideration, the government has already revised and enacted National Child Policy 2012 with the objective of protecting children from physical and mental violence, ending discrimination, providing quality education and health, and strengthening the juvenile justice system. A 10-year action programme ensures the allocation of at least 10 percent of the budget to children both at the national and local levels. This has been further supported by the national strategy and operational guideline on child-friendly local governance in 2011 that advocates the allocation of 15 percent of the budget to children’s issues.
Absence of care
The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health have been doing their best to mobilise the resources they have. The Central Child Welfare Board and the District Child Welfare Boards in each district have been functioning in coordination with various stakeholders at the grassroots and policy levels. Immunisation has been one of the key areas of focus of the government for the eradication of deadly diseases like polio.
The major challenges facing children at present are mostly related to broken families which have resulted in an increasing number of children being put in foster
care. A large number of children are being institutionalised due to the rise in number of parents migrating abroad for employment. Lack of a proper monitoring mechanism in the government system has led to increased incidences of child abuse and such cases often remain unreported. The mismanagement and inability to remove street children from the streets
of urban areas of the country is also a result of state failure. However, the goal to make Kathmandu Valley street children-free by the end of this fiscal year can be considered as the light at the end of the tunnel.
Protection for children, dropping out of school and child marriage are a few other very important challenges which still require more effort. Intra- and inter-country trafficking of children for child labour, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation still remains an enormous challenge. Despite the numerous policies and programmes that have been designed to deal with the problem, there has been little implementation and monitoring.
Parents and children
Frequent monitoring and evaluation by the government is the only way to ensure that programmes and policies are implemented. In order to insure child protection, the government first needs to work on improving employment opportunities within the country. Addressing the problem at the surface without identifying its source has always been a waste of effort. Children’s problems are largely related to their parents. The socio-economic condition of a family influences the children’s health, education and upbringing. Hence, it is crucial for the government to implement a planned livelihood programme for families if it wants to improve the condition of children.
The post-MDG development phase should be more focused on policy review and research work on the related issues. This will generate data and allow organisations, donors and the concerned government authorities to predict and analyse trends relating to children’s issues. It will also help manage the huge amount of funds flowing within the country and direct the right investment toward the right sector.
Koirala is a programme assistant at the Central Child Welfare Board. Views expressed in this article are personal