This report was produced by MenCare, a global campaign to promote men and boys’ involvement as equitable, non-violent caregivers.
The inter-agency working paper consolidates current thinking, examples and lessons learned about child protection system strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and suggest a way forward. The focus is on concrete actions that reflect country narratives and is followed by recommendations for continuing and sustaining the work.
There is a growing interest in applying the systems approach to strengthening child protection efforts. Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the systems approach shifts attention to a larger systemic framework that includes legal and policy contexts, institutional capacity, community contexts, planning, budgeting and monitoring and evaluation subsystems.
This approach differs from child protection efforts that focus on single thematic issues, such as HIV/AIDS, disability, child trafficking, street children, child labour, emergencies and institutionalization. These single-issue approaches often result in a fragmented and unsustainable child protection response.
This paper was developed on behalf of the Regional OVC Reference Group for west and central Africa, which includes Plan International, Save the Children International, and UNICEF. The paper presents the findings and insights generated through the mapping and assessment of national child protection systems in five West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The goal of the country research was to provide national actors with a profile of their existing system and an initial assessment of its contextual appropriateness and relevance to the populations being served.
There are a rapidly growing number of vulnerable children across Africa facing multiple violations of their rights. They suffer hunger, ill health, violence, neglect, loss of access to education and opportunities for play, and have little chance of a successful and happy future. An estimated 12 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, countless millions more children are living in households with sick parents and are helping to care for them. Millions more African children are affected by conflict, famine and poverty. The total number of orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa was 48.3 million at the end of 2005.1 Although anti-retroviral treatment offers hope that fewer HIV-positive people will become sick in the future, there are countless children whose lives have already been disrupted.
Governments bear a responsibility to care for these children, but too often they do not. For centuries, communities in Africa have helped neighbours in crisis. But the huge numbers of children in need mean that neighbourly support is no longer enough. As a response, community members are getting together to assist children and their families within their communities. Community initiatives can provide various kinds of assistance including parenting, protection, psychosocial and spiritual support, and material assistance.
However, these community groups require assistance to most effectively care for children. They need support to deliver the best responses, reaching the most vulnerable children over the long term. Children at the Centre is primarily written for those working in agencies (supporting organisations) that are currently supporting, or wishing to support, the establishment of community groups to support vulnerable children. In this guide, ‘community groups’ refers to collectives of community members who are caring for vulnerable children.