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What is primary prevention?

The overall aim of primary level prevention is to enable and empower parents to care for their children so that families can remain together
Girl in hospital
© XinXinXing, Shutterstock

The overall aim of primary level prevention is to enable and empower parents to care for their children so that families can remain together.

It encompasses the provision of basic services to which everyone in the community should have access as required, without discrimination and in accordance with human rights.

These ‘universal’ services include education, health and medical treatment, social security, and the legal system. They constitute the bedrock on which everyone should be able to depend.

There is also a recognised need for specialist services when families and children are particularly vulnerable, such as programmes to support young and single mothers or child-headed households, and projects that prevent exploitation of children, for example putting a stop to child trafficking.

There is a need to be particularly vigilant and provide support due to the situations families may find themselves in as the result of man-made or natural disasters.

In addition, comprehensive national and local child protection systems and services should be in place to work with children when they are at risk of serious harm as a result of exploitation and all other forms of abuse and neglect.

Prevention options

Prevention is grounded in a wide range of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provisions, from health care (CRC Article 24) and education (CRC Article 28) to birth registration (CRC Article 7) to protection (CRC Articles 3, 19), to freedom from exploitation (CRC Articles 32, 33, 34, 35) social security (CRC Article 25) and non-discrimination (CRC Articles 2, 30).

One example of promising practice to help prevent the use of alternative care is a project in South Africa named ‘Isibindi’.

The project works with some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children, including those left orphaned and living in child-headed households as a result of HIV/AIDS. Care workers visit the homes of children and help support their access to education, health, and other government services.

They provide psychological support and material assistance and draw up developmental plans with families. They also offer life skills training, covering such topics as health, hygiene, children’s rights, budgeting, and nutrition.

Young people in child-headed households are able to attend weekly life skills training courses designed to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to care for their siblings and for themselves.

You can find more information about this project on page 52 of the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’.

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Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

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