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Childcare reforms fail to meet national targets

Update: June, 18/2014 - 08:18

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, there were at least 3000 cases of child abuse in 2012, with nearly 1000 cases involving sex abuse.

A report released in 2011 by UNICEF showed that accidents kill 20 children in Viet Nam every day. Child labour is also a large problem, with more than 25,000 children employed in toxic and dangerous working environments.

Nguyen Trong An, former deputy head of the Department of Childcare and Protection, tells Hai Quan (Customs) online newspaper that ensuring adequate healthcare and education for children is an urgent task.

We have always heard the slogan: "Giving the best to children." Do you think our policies and actions for child care have lived up to that slogan?

In recent years, we have achieved much progress in protecting and caring for children. However, frankly there are still many important targets that have not been achieved.

This includes shortages of playgrounds, schools, safe entertainment spots for children in local villages and wards, problems related to child labour, accidents, violence and abuse against children.

I know that we have always said that "the children of today are the world of tomorrow." I, however, believe that all the best for children must be done today. It's the actions we do today that matter the most.

Do you think our child protection policies have been sufficient and well-implemented?

Speaking about childcare policies, I want to focus on two main areas that are closely related to the development of children: education and healthcare.

In terms of education, I think government agencies and policymakers are not paying enough attention to the development of children during their first three years. Much research has already shown that the first three years of development affect 80 per cent of a child's ability to develop throughout their life. Despite that, kindergartens now do not meet the demands of the public.

Thousands, even millions of workers in industrial parks and processing zones, and low-income earners, do not have the means to send their children to public schools and must send their children to private ones, knowing their children might not be safe.

In terms of healthcare, previously all of the treatment costs for children under 6 were paid by the Government. Now, parents have to use health insurance for children. And it only limits treatment to those categories that are insured.

Annually, there are thousands of children who have heart problems, but their parents cannot afford treatment. Only a few of these children can receive support from charities and volunteer organisations.

About places for children to play? Most of the parks, children centres, and playgrounds in apartment buildings have been lost or turned into golf courses, restaurant or businesses.

In reality, it seems that we don't listen enough to children?

According to results learned when we gathered ideas for amending the Law on Child Care and Protection, many children across the country expressed a clear desire to contribute their voices.

We know that we need to listen to them, but we have not done that so well. Even though there are forums at the local and national levels on children's rights, talks between leaders and children have to be held more regularly. Our law must also take into account children's voices.

At the family level, parents have to listen to their children's ideas. They should not impose their ideas on children and put them under pressure. Parents should give children the freedom to think, speak out and take responsibilities.

What are yours ideas on how we can allow children to develop naturally without putting them under too much pressure?

I hope that leaders and child-care agencies can see all children as if they were their own children. Leaders at the local level must bear responsibility if their localities experience child abuse cases.

On the family side, parents should care about their children's health, physical status and nutrition, but also their safety. Obviously, all of the care will not do any good if their safety is not ensured and prioritised.

What's about the role of the Government?

I think the most urgent task for the Government now is to amend the current legal framework for child care protection.

There are many loopholes in the law, evident in the lack of clear regulations and punishment levels for those who commit acts against the well-being of children.

All of the legal framework must be reassessed and add new regulations to protect children if they are victims, witnesses for criminal cases, whistleblowers or to protect their information.

Besides, there must be new regulations and mechanisms that prevent, protect and deal with child abuse cases and violence against children. — VNS


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