Dialogue to address impact of disasters on child protection

A two-day state level Conclave (26-27 February)is organized by Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) in partnership with Gauhati University and supported by UNICEF Assam to discuss on occurrence of disasters (natural and man-made) and its impact on children. Assam is a State which is extremely vulnerable to disasters including earthquakes, annual floods and ethnic violence. Disasters impact normal life in a variety of ways and cause a significant disruption in the functioning of the community.

Disasters also have a serious impact on the protection of children which is normally neither acknowledged nor addressed. Natural disasters and ethnic violence can disrupt children’s lives severely and not necessarily in the same way these disasters would impact adults. Apart from physical trauma, and deprivations, children also undergo tremendous psychosocial trauma. Additionally, children are made vulnerable to other forms of exploitation including trafficking. According to data, At least 4,219 children have gone missing from Assam in the last five years.

The event began with an Inaugural session which was presided by His Excellency, the Hon’ble Governor of Assam, Shri. P. B. Acharya. Shri Acharya congratulated the organizers for the timely discussion on children and disasters and also appealed for a humane touch to the implementation of laws and policies in dealing with children. He urged duty-bearers to keep in mind, the best interests of the child, when enforcing and intervening in situations involving children.  Hon’ble Governor also launched a joint report by ASCPCR and UNICEF on a Media Consultation on Child Rights, Media Ethics and Participation of Adolescents in the Media.

ASCPCR Chairperson, Smt. Runumi Gogoi, sharing experiences from her visits to conflict and disaster affected areas, highlighted the increased vulnerabilities of children and urged stakeholders to come together to formulate a more effective and multi-sectoral response to address the multiple challenges impacting children.

The Conclave deliberated on these issues with a view to understand the impact of disasters and formulate a coherent and integrated response for achieving an increased protective environment for children in the context of disasters in Assam.

Drawing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),Dr. Tushar Rane, Chief of UNICEF Assam, stressed on the need to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to disasters especially in the context of child rights issues. He congratulated ASCPCR and Guwahati University on the initiative and urged stakeholders to address womenand children especially from disadvantaged and marginalized groups during disasters as they are the worst affected.

 

The consultation was attended by senior officials of Govt. Departments including the Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Child Welfare Committee (CWC), District Child Protection Unit, Special Juvenile Police Unit(SJPU), Sarba Siksha Abhijan (SSA), Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Labour Department and representatives from NGOs working on disaster in Assam, and academics.

The two-day event will examine in detail the situation and key vulnerabilities of children and their families; and will explore the framework of working with children in emergencies. Participants will also share some of the key good practices and child-specific services rendered by various government as well as civil society agencies and identify bottlenecks in addressing rights of children in the context of disasters. A set of recommendations on the key policy, programmes and schemes to achieve an increased protective environment for children in the context of disasters in Assam will be formulated over the course of the two days.