Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second My name is Geoffrey Oyat. I work with Save the Children as a regional child protection advisor covering east and southern Africa. I will be talking about primary prevention and care, the challenges with this in terms of children without appropriate care in Africa, as well as what we are doing at Save the Children to address it. By primary prevention we mean empowering parents to care for their children without discrimination which implies access to the most basic things like education, health care, social services without discrimination. And the definition of primary prevention according to which we work with also these special programmes of vulnerable, like child mothers or setting in place systems and structures that can prevent exploitation of children.
Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds What are the challenges we have which leads to children leaving home or requiring alternative care? Basically the drivers include violence in the home, but also includes poverty, conflict, sick parents, especially HIV in our context, as well as things like lack of education. If the school is too far for this child, then there is a tendency of parents wanting to put that child in an alternative care situation. Now in our experience the parent’s level of income, the ability to have purchasing power to provide for their children, the education status of the parents, as well as the living arrangements are really the primary predictors of vulnerability.
Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds Because you can have a child mother, a single mother for example, who is educated and has resources, then you will find that that child is able to stay at home because the conditions are right for it. So in Africa when we go into orphanages, we find that four out of five children do actually have parents, one or both alive, because what has pushed them there are other things, not necessarily the fact that they are orphans. What are we doing at Save the Children to deal with problems?
Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds In regards to children without appropriate care, there are a number of interventions looking at family preservation, preventive services for separation like poverty reduction, giving the family access to income; increase access to education and working together with education team so that children have good schools nearby and they don’t need to go to orphanages in order to access education; parenting programmes, targeting parents to reduce violence basically, so that the home environment is better for children; as well as children’s empowerment, children knowing what their rights are, what they need to do, what they need not to do, and how best they can live in their various home communities.
Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds An example I can give is work I was part of in Liberia from 2010 to 2013 where we dealt with removal of children from districts, from the orphanages, as well as risky situations and reunifying them with their parents. The efforts culminated into over 400 prevention of separation as well as over 300 children being unified. But basically, the parents sent away their children because they were not able to afford basics like education. And when we trace them– because we found actually that in orphanages, we realised that the living conditions in the home was the problem.
Skip to 4 minutes and 27 seconds So targeted interventions, giving them small incomes to begin small businesses, working with the parents to understand the risk of children staying away from them, and actually what their children are going through in the orphanages, as well is a combination of policies with the government, strengthening the Liberian government to be able to set in place laws and policies to prevent unnecessary separation did lead to success in six counties out of fifteen where we were working. Where it wasn’t any more easy for a parent just to wake up and decide that the child will go into orphanages. And it wasn’t also easy for the orphanages to just go and pick children because the legal framework had been improved.
Examples of primary prevention
In this video, we hear from Geoffrey Oyat who is the Regional Child Protection Advisor with Save the Children covering East and Southern Africa. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education and has worked with Save the Children in various child protection roles since 2001 in Uganda, Sri Lanka, and Liberia before his current role. While working in Liberia from 2009-12 he was instrumental in the care reform work which was led by the Government of Liberia. Drawing on Save the Children experience elsewhere, Geoffrey has been active in the development and revision of Liberia’s national Social Welfare Policy and Plan, Liberia’s Children’s Act as well as other national policy and legal reforms such as changes to the adoption law, establishing minimum child care standards and development of community options as alternatives to institutional care for vulnerable children. Geoffrey is an advocate for the rights of children and has spoken at various conferences on the issue.
Geoffrey recorded this video for us in the Save the Children office in Uganda. He speaks about the importance of access to basic services including health care and education. He tells us he found how the education and poverty levels of parents are a factor when determining children’s vulnerability to being separated from their family. He provides practical examples of his work in Liberia preventing children being unnecessarily placed in alternative care and how targeted interventions to support families and working with the Government to strengthen laws and policies played an important role.