Protect children against exploitation — Child Rights International
The Executive Director of Child Rights International, Bright Appiah, has challenged parents and opinion leaders of displaced persons in the Volta Region to endeavour to protect children against exploitation and sexual harassment.
He expressed concern that the sleeping arrangements in the place at the safe havens created by the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and its stakeholders, which have men, women, young boys, and girls sleeping in the same space, could lead to children, particularly young girls, being exploited.
"There are no clear guidelines on how to engage children in such an environment, and if we are not careful, children could be exploited sexually and also in terms of work," he said.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic during a tour of the affected areas at Mepe in the Volta Region, where the spillage of the Kpong and Akosombo Dams have displaced nearly 31,000 residents of the lower Volta Basin, Mr Appiah said the environment housing the displaced persons was not well-protected to guarantee the safety of the children.
Mr Appiah who together with his team presented an amount of GH¢50,000 to NADMO to help with the procurement of relief items for the affected children expressed worry that the overcrowding nature at the holding shelters puts the children at the risk of physical harm.
While NADMO and other benevolent organisations continue to provide relief items for many of the affected people, Mr Appiah also expressed worry about safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, and the health needs of the children.
He indicated that Child Rights International's data showed that nearly 10,000 of the displaced people were children and they could be under emotional stress if alternative arrangements were not in place to guarantee their safety.
While the spillage has seen many of the school facilities that were not being flooded being used as shelters for the displaced people, Mr Appiah also expressed concern about the lack of an arrangement that could keep the children busy by way of academic work while alternative arrangements were made to get them back to the classroom.
Similarly, children with disabilities identified among the displaced people, he said, would also require special care and protection.
While announcing his organisation’s intention to print 10,000 notebooks, exercise books, school uniforms, and other school supplies for the children, Mr Appiah wants the government and allied stakeholders managing the disaster to design systems that are more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the children.
“The present system in place could bring about insanitary situations at the shelters due to overcrowding and children may be at risk of contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, or measles.
They may also be at risk of malnutrition if they do not have access to enough food or clean water,” Mr Appiah said.
On the disruption the disaster has brough to the education of the children, Mr Appiah said the social and emotional stress from missing out on education may require the need for clinical support for the children.
“But as you can see, that is not in place, apart from the health screening arrangements in place by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), which we think is more aged-focused and we will like to see a more coordinated efforts that are children centered to be put in place,” he said.
That notwithstanding, he said, there was little support system for the situation in terms of what NADMO and the District Assembly could do, once the state did not see the need to declare a state of emergency in the area.