The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services has sounded the alarm on the various types of abuse perpetrated on children, especially those living with disabilities in Cameroon, which further undermines and deter normal growth and development. The solemn reminder was made at the first-ever National Symposium on Child Abuse, which took place in Yaounde, Cameroon on September 25, 2019.
The symposium presented an opportunity for the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services to present detailed qualitative-based research on the abuse of children with disabilities in the Northwest Region of Cameroon.
According to Mrs. Agho Glory, Lead Researcher and EDID (Empowerment Disability Inclusive Development) Program Manager, the research was motivated by the high prevalence of child abuse in Cameroon. “From the (our) findings, over 50% of children in Cameroon are reported to have been abused. Amongst children with disabilities, child abuse is 3-5 times more than their peers without disabilities,” revealed Mrs. Agho.
She regretted that despite lots of underground work done by the Government and the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services to protect children and prevent child abuse, there were still cases of abuse reported in the country. Hence “We sought to know what is contributing to the ever-increasing cases of abuse,” she said.
The research revealed that there are several contributing factors to child abuse; ranging from alcohol consumption, communication problems (especially with children with hearing impairment), and religious believes, discriminating attitudes, inaction, ignorance to lack of proper systems that prevent child abuse.
Addressing the Press at the symposium, Prof. Tih Pius Muffih, Director of Health Services underscored that the symposium was a forum to talk to and with stakeholders about the rampant child abuse recorded in everyday life in the country and the continent at large. “We, by this wanted to enlist their support and actions towards preventing child abuse in our [the] society,” he added.
“There are lots of policies and frameworks towards preventing abuse in the country. However, it was time for all stakeholders to move from policy to action. They should be able to identify where there is child abuse and take perpetrators to account for their actions,” noted Prof. Tih. The public health expert advocated further that the rule of the law should be used to prosecute those who abuse the rights of children either physically, emotionally and mentally; thereby protecting children who cannot defend themselves.
The National Symposium on Child Abuse, a brainchild of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services was organized, thanks to funds from Liliane Foundation Netherlands in partnership with Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS).
Declaring the symposium open, Pauline Irene Nguene, Minister of Social Affairs called on all the participants to take advantage of the meeting to propose effective strategies that will enable government and stakeholders to improve on the national response on child protection in the country. She appreciated the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services for their generous efforts and actions towards protecting the vulnerable in Cameroon.
“I will like to thank the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services, not only for her actions aimed at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities through hospital-based and community interventions, but especially for organizing the symposium,” she said.
The plight of abused children is catered for at the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services under the direction of the Child Protection component of the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SEEPD) Programme.
Ms Nsono Josephine, Gender and Child Protection Officer at the SEEPD Programme says many of the children the program has intervened in their cases, suffered sexual abuse. “We find cases of incest that happen right within the home. In the advent of the Anglophone crisis, many children have been displaced and residing with family members who turn to rape them on a daily basis.”
Having witnessed many child abuse cases, Ms Nsono says fighting child abuse is a collective responsibility; starting with medics who have to take care of the health of the abused children, the legal persons, psychotherapists and community members who have to surround the child and ensure their proper integration and development into the society after justice has been served.
The National Symposium on Child Abuse folded up with a resolve by participants to educate the people more and more on rights of children, facilitate the harmonization of child protection activities and policies by all, and a dire need to create a secure environment for victims to speak out.
The participants actively signed a commitment to promote and defend the rights of children and to prevent/denounce all forms of child abuse in their respective communities
The symposium held at the Yaoundé City Council (Hotel de Ville) under the theme: “The Abuse of Children: From Awareness to Action”