Child protection

Child protection

Protection of children strengthened

Problem assessment and comprehensive response

As of February 2015, UNHCR is hosting 14,479 children (17% of the total refugee population) in four camps. 1,821of these are registered as either unaccompanied or separated children (UASC).

The political and economic situation in Eritrea means that children too are likely to continue leaving their country in the search of protection and better economic and social prospects. Children seeking asylum in Ethiopia and those leaving on secondary movement will include a significant number of UASC.

Ensuring that all children of concern have access to protection and assistance needs remain a priority. While special project funding through the Live, Learn and Play – Regional Initiative 2014-2016 has helped address gaps in staffing numbers and capacity, interventions for children at risk are yet to ensure that UNHCR’s six goals for children are adequately met. Reasons include low/unstructured involvement of both children and their communities in children’s protection and solutions, large influx of UASC, which diverts efforts to their immediate care, secondary movement of caregivers and social workers reducing ownership and sustainability of efforts, and limited training amongst duty-bearers.

Communities increasingly avoid their traditional roles in preventing and responding to protection risks for children. In addition, the weak case management, coordination and referral system contributes to a weaker protection environment for children, resulting in fewer children at risks/children with specific needs being identified and assisted in a systematic and timely manner.

Secondary movement of children and risks associated with it is likely to continue to affect children. Becoming victims of trafficking and smuggling, being abandoned by caregivers, and weak case management and follow-up services due to the high turnover of community-based social workers are issues that will impact children’s protection.

Although children in the camps have access to schools, over-crowding and issues around quality affects children’s enthusiasm to remain in school. Also, formal education is less attractive to adolescents who had dropped out of schools prior to arrival and children often see life beyond the camps in third countries as the primary goal in life. Adolescent girls and boys have little opportunities for skills development and recreation, and are particularly vulnerable as they seek to find informal employment opportunities or while away their time in idleness.

UASC face overcrowding at the Endabaguna Transit Centre, and limited family-based care options in the camps. The composition and mobility of the camp population means a significant number of these children have to be accommodated and cared for through a community-based care arrangement. Communities’ role in tracing, identifying family-based care, and children’s upbringing and development needs further strengthening. Durable solutions remain elusive due to the situation in the country of origin, local integration not being available and limited prospects for resettlement.

The pilot initiative by the ICRC to explore voluntary repatriation and family reunification for UASC below the age of 13 years (outlined above under objective “Family Reunification”), if successful, will require an increased engagement on the part of UNHCR to ensure that children’s best interests is a primary consideration in the process.

A linkage between Child Protection, and the Education and SGBV Strategies remain weak, and requires a concerted effort by the various units of the operation.

The implementation of UNHCR’s Framework for the Protection of Child Protection through the Shire-level Child Protection Strategy for 2015, combined with the special project funding, has provided an impetus for a strong set of activities and interventions for all children of concern within the operation, which will have to be strengthened further in 2016.

Prioritized response

Mainstreaming child protection activities into all programs and ensuring that children have access to services in the camp including education, health, food and non-food items (NFI) provision, psychosocial and other basic and essential service will continue to be emphasized.

UNHCR will build on existing coordination forums such as the Child Protection Task Force, and stakeholder meetings to ensure better prevention and response to risks for children. UNHCR will also continue to engage with UNICEF and implementing partners in coordination of critical activities for child protection and education and mainstreaming the child protection program into other complementary programs in the camp.

With the three-year Special Project ending in 2016, UNHCR will continue to focus and redouble its efforts to ensure a stronger and sustainable programme for children beyond 2016. The activities outlined below will lead to a smooth phase-out of the special project, while ensuring that the protection services for children remains a priority in 2017. Activities will include strengthening safe spaces for all children, and increasing the involvement and ownership of caregivers and communities, to ensure that all children of concern will continue to receive protection.

The prioritized registration of children at the registration centre and timely transfer to the camps would be strengthened, with an increased focus on family-like care arrangements for unaccompanied children and separated children (UASC). Where such family-based care is not possible, children will be cared from through the community-based group living care arrangement. Identifying and maintain a pool of willing and trained foster families to care for UASC would require that staff numbers are maintained while increasing the community involvement in the process. The staff will also be trained regularly to ensure that the skills are consistent with the needs of children at risk, and needs beyond 2016.

Families caring for UASC and other children at risk will receive livelihood support, while children nearing adulthood will be included in programmes that support skills development. This will ensure that families are better able to care for children while those transitioning to adulthood are able to explore income generating activities using their new skills.

In addition to the community’s involvement in identifying and providing care for UASC, members of the communities will also be supported in organising and coordinating community efforts towards prevention and response to protection risks for all children. This will include training and guiding existing community-based structures, including child protection structures, while promoting the inclusion of individuals of different ages, gender and other categories in the decision making-process. Children’s committees, children’s parliament, youth clubs and groups are all key components of community-based child protection mechanism, and thus, will be integrated into broader decision-making and support processes.

While Child Protection Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will be finalised and operationalised in 2015, their implementation will require regular follow-up, dissemination and ongoing revision. UNHCR and partners will make the implementation of the SOPs an integral part of the child protection programme. For UNHCR operations, the best interests procedure (BIAs and BIDs) are an integral element of the case management system. Additionally, the use of the Child Protection Information Management System, introduced in 2015, will be streamlined at partner-level for case management activities, while strengthen the link with UNHCR proGres.

With risks related to onward movement, including trafficking and smuggling, remain a major concern for these children, the case management system will also be used to strengthen tracking and analysis of trends, to increase monitoring and support, and to identify alternatives to dangerous onward movements.
Impact Indicator Baseline Year-End Target
Output Performance Indicator Year-End Target
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