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Pan American Health Organization: Do more to stop violence against children and adolescents

Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2020. 11:48 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: There are still gaps to fill in the fight to reduce violence against children and adolescents in the Americas, according to a new first-of-its-kind study by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The Regional Status Report 2020: Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Children is based on information from 31 countries that responded to a global survey. The study marks the first time that governments have reported on progress on the INSPIRE framework, a set of seven evidence-based strategies for preventing and responding to violence against children.

These strategies, with the highest potential of reducing violence against children, include implementation and enforcement of laws, challenging social norms and values that justify use of violence; creating safe physical environments for children; providing support to parents and caregivers; strengthening income and economic security; improving response and support services for children; and providing children with education and life skills.

The problem has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, with increased risk of domestic violence and violence against children linked to COVID-related lock-down, stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and social and economic concerns, while there has been reduced access of children to friends, relatives and health and protection services that might have provided support.

Violence against children takes multiple forms, including maltreatment by adults in a position of authority, bullying and fighting among peers, sexual and dating violence, and assault connected to peers and gangs. Violence has been linked to physical, sexual, reproductive, and mental health problems as well as to socioeconomic costs such as educational underachievement, increased risk of unemployment and poverty, and association with gangs and organized crime.

PAHO collaborated on the report with leaders of UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

Calls have been made to more vigorously enforce the law against statutory rape (only 29% of countries report a high likelihood of sanctions against offenders) and increase access to services for mental health and sexual health counseling.

The report, a milestone for the Americas, provides a baseline that can be a foundation for future work as the Region advances toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes specific targets related to violence against children.


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