Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) told a UNICEF meeting that child labour, sexual exploitation and violence including incest were among its major challenges in protecting children and that it had limited capacity to respond to the needs of those in particularly vulnerable situations.
According to a UNICEF press release some RDCs also said HIV/AIDS, truancy, suicide and male under-achievement are major issues and that they lacked the capacity to respond to Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children. They said too access to safe water remains a problem especially in the dry season in the hinterland areas and called for more advocacy at all levels of society, particularly from religious leaders, to take care of children. The release said this call came on Wednesday, one day ahead of a scheduled meeting with leaders of faith-based organisation aimed at building partnerships for children.
More than 40 regional chairmen, executive officers and other administrators from the ten regions attended the UNICEF two-day Regional Integration Caucus aimed at focusing on children. The objective of the meeting was to discuss support interventions in the hinterland and develop regional integrated plans for Guyana.
In his address, Minister of Local Government Kellawan Lall urged all stakeholders to take the necessary steps to take care of children, particularly those in critical situations. “Each child is an asset, not only to Guyana, but to the world, and their needs must be looked at in a holistic way,” Lall said, adding “We need to zero in on the most unfortunate, look at where the issues lie, bring them together and concentrate efforts at reducing their impact.” He then called on the education ministry to collaborate with parents, communities and religious leaders to educate children so that they do not become a burden on the society.
Meanwhile, on the second day of the forum UNICEF Regional Director, Latin America and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg urged the participants to establish a continuum of change for children, especially to bring about visibility for children in hinterland areas. He charged regional administrators to highlight the challenges and issues specific to their individual regions so that they can garner the support needed to bring about change.
UNICEF said child protection remains a key issue in all regions and the meeting is to follow-up on recommendations made in the Mid Term Review of the Government of Guyana/UNICEF Country Programme Action Plan 2006-2010. The Review was held in November and the End of Year Review 2008, where the regional disparities in development were highlighted by the 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey necessitated a refocusing of UNICEF-supported interventions. The initiation of the Regional Integrated Development Plans through the RDC has been one output from these recommendations alongside an identification of areas of support required by the RDCs for monitoring their implementation.