Speaking at the DIHAD 2017 conference, our Chairman, James Kofi Annan, called on decision-makers and policymakers to to invest more in families in times of crisis and disasters, “The best mechanism to protect a child from trafficking and exploitation and abuse and child labour and from living on the streets is for them to grow up in a strong and effective and supported and safe family,” he said.
Founder of our member organisation in Ghana ‘Challenging Heights’, James reaffirmed the essential role of a safe and caring family in protecting children while acknowledging the many internal and external pressures that may challenge families’ abilities to do so.
Citing successful stories from some of our member organisations, James presented the ways they mitigate the challenges that threaten the wellbeing of children, such as poverty, violence, exploitation, emergencies and conflict. He also noted the importance of culture and context, advocating partnerships with local leaders, experts and practitioners as the best way to strengthen families within their context.
Globally, millions of children are living and working on the streets, forced into harmful labour or residing in inappropriate institutional care without access to education, health services, shelter or even food, “It is not only about poverty. Natural disasters and armed conflicts and wars make things worse for boys and girls who get separated from their parents,” James told the audience. “In the middle of the chaos, these children become vulnerable to all sorts of exploitations in their own country or as immigrants in other countries.”
During a humanitarian crisis, the focus is often reduced to food, shelter and safety. While these basic services are obviously needed, they are not enough to prevent children from the many risks they’re exposed to. Investment in families is needed because a strong family is the first line of defence in a time of crisis, an informal system of social protection, and source of safety and resiliency for children.
We at Family know from experience that too many children are separated from their families unnecessarily, “We can shift this paradigm,” James urged, “We, in the global development community can change the way we protect children through their families.” He concluded by reiterating our alliance’s core belief that by growing up with the love, care and safety of a family, children around the world will be able to achieve their full potential, to lead healthy, fulfilled, socially and politically engaged lives.