Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani has reaffirmed Kenya’s commitment in protecting children’s rights at all times including in emergency situations.
He pledged that as a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Kenya would put great efforts towards ensuring that children in the county got maximum protection as stipulated in the Charter.
The Cabinet Secretary said this in a speech read on his behalf by a Senior Deputy Secretary in his Ministry Mr. Ngei Mutinda in Tana River County, during celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child.
This year’s national celebrations, whose theme was: “Humanitarian Crisis in Africa: Children’s Rights First,” were held at the Catholic Vocational Training Centre in Hola Town, Tana River County.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the National Children’s Services (NCCS) led by Chairperson Joyce Ngugi as well as Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana and Women Representative Rehema Hassan attended.
Yatani said his Ministry was committed in addressing any gaps that may exist between policy and practice for children’s rights so that they were realized to the fullest.
He called for concerted efforts by State and non-State actors to address children’s unique protection risks that required strengthening of the child protection system in Kenya, especially those in areas prone to humanitarian crises such as drought, floods and community clash-prone areas.
“These children require rescue, psychosocial support, tracing, reintegration, education, health care and other basic needs,” Yatani said, adding that “Children in humanitarian situations are often ignored and abused due to cultural norms and children’s vulnerability”.
Yatani said children faced inhuman treatment such as torture, forced recruitment into gangs, slavery, sexual exploitation such as defilement and forced prostitution during or after the crises.
“Children with disabilities and unaccompanied children during emergency situations face more challenges than able bodied ones. It is important that duty bearers evaluate and re-evaluate their actions and interventions in order to address the needs and rights of all children during and after a crisis,” he said.
Yatani said investing in children especially in areas prone to community conflicts and emergency disaster situations would go a long way in ensuring that children were safeguarded and protected.
He said the Ministry would continue to apply the principle of “Children’s Rights First,” particularly the right to life, survival and development, non-discrimination and the best interest of the child.
He said positive outcomes for children had been recorded in education such as increased higher school attendance rates as a result of the free and compulsory basic education, lower child death rates due to enhanced maternal care and decreasing gender disparity among others.
He said Kenya had made big strides in social security and social protection through subsidies such as the cash transfer kitty benefitting 353,000 orphaned and vulnerable children and the Presidential Bursary for 240,000 boarding secondary school poor orphaned children among others.
Yatani decried the high rate of child neglect in the county and appealed to parents to take up their responsibilities seriously, while also asking law enforcement agencies to enforce the law accordingly.
“The government policy is that all children should grow in a family set-up and be cared for by their parents or guardians. I therefore call upon all actors in the children’s sector to promote alternative family care and opt for institutional care for children as a last resort,” he said.
Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana asked parents to take great care of their children and ensure they were not recruited into criminal gangs.
He lamented that some parents had been asking him to intervene whenever their children went missing only to learn later that the children had been recruited into criminal groupings including terrorist groups.
Tana River Women Representative Rehema Hassan also lamented that many young people in the county had joined criminal groupings and were on police radar, some targeted for elimination because of their criminal records.