The launching of two reports on children’s issues in FSM
UNICEF Representative to the Pacific Dr. Allen and Acting Secretary of Department of Health and Social Affairs Mr. Wincener David
POHNPEI, 3 November 2013 – The National Government of Micronesia and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today launched two new publications of importance for children.
The first report, titled ‘Children in the Federated States of Micronesia: An Atlas of Social Indicators’, presents a comprehensive picture of the situation of children in the country. It contains a wealth of data on indicators of child well-being across different sectors including demography, poverty and inequality, education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, disability, and child protection.
The report is the culmination of an intense effort to bring together the latest evidence and analysis related to children from the population census, national household surveys, databases from different ministries, and other research conducted over the past years.
The statistics and data in the report are more than just numbers – they represent the reality of life for children and their families, showing us both the wellbeing of children, but also where there challenges to their rights and wellbeing. Good quality and timely data helps governments to identify what the issues are, who the vulnerable populations are and how best to allocate resources. It helps civil society to understand the dimensions of the issues it faces and how best to plan to address these issues. And it helps organizations such as UNICEF and other international partners to identify where to target our support.
In her remarks to launch the Atlas, Dr. Allen said, “The Children’s Atlas of Social Indicators confirms that there has been a significant improvement in the lives of children in Micronesia. This is evident, for example, by the reduction in infant and child mortality rates over the past decades. Nearly 90 per cent of births occur in a health facility. Gender parity has been achieved in primary education and the special education program is dedicated to supporting children with disabilities. Access to improved sanitation facilities has more than doubled over the last two decades.”
She continued by saying, “Yet, the report also shows that there remains an unfinished agenda for the children of Micronesia.”
In fact, a reading of the report reveals that the country is slipping back in a number of areas. Immunisation coverage, for example, varies widely between States and has decreased since the mid 2000s, according to official estimates. The measles outbreak this year is a terrible manifestation of that. Micronutrient malnutrition is relatively common: around one third of pregnant women and infants screened in public hospitals were found to be anaemic, meaning, insufficient iron in their blood. Progress towards universal primary education appears to have stalled, while secondary school participation declined over the last decade.
Off course, having access to such facts and figures as included in the children’s atlas is only the beginning. Data alone do not change the world. The goal is to use the data to inform decisions, policies and targeting of resources so that we make a measurable, positive difference impact on the lives of children.
That is why, in addition to the launch event this morning, this week there will also be a training on child indicators, to look at all the tables, graphs and maps in the children’s atlas, and to discuss how the information in the report could be used for effective planning, programming and monitoring.
The second report being launched is the Child Protection Baseline Research for the Federated States of Micronesia. This report was initiated in 2010/2011 and has taken considerable commitment and determination from all partners. While the Children’s Atlas of Social Indicators presents an overarching overview of the situation of children in the country, the Child Protection Baseline is a “deep dive” into qualitative and quantitative factors such as violence and verbal aggression as well as policies, legislation and systems for protection of children.
Providing an environment that promotes and fosters a comprehensive and accessible child protection system is challenging, made more so in the Pacific Island context where delivering services over a geographically wide area is costly and difficult.
Added to these administrative and logistical challenges is the nature of child protection violations that are often shrouded in stigma and hidden from public view. Violence, abuse and exploitation of children are difficult issues to openly discuss and to research and that is why this research is so remarkable. In her remarks to launch the Report, Dr. Allen said, “One of the most interesting findings was that children and parents are very consistent in their attitudes and beliefs on what is called “positive discipline”, meaning, using role modelling, discussion and peer support to enforce good behaviour, rather than hitting and other harmful punishments. This seems to reflect strong traditional values of communities that value consensus and harmony. On the other hand, according to self reporting by children and adults, despite believing in positive discipline, quite a few adults were hitting, slapping and humiliating children and not enough adults were taking action when children told them about this.”
The Child Protection Baseline report also provides analysis of legal frameworks, formal social service structures, and the various environments provided by communities and families; and reviews how effectively each promotes the protection of children. The report documents that in Micronesia traditional practices at the community level go a long way in protecting children from harm, but that with increased urbanization and other changes in lifestyle, these systems are breaking down.
Particular issues raised in the report include the need to strengthen the juvenile justice system so as to promote diversion and restorative justice; the urgent need to break the silence on abuse and ensure children and parents are able to speak out and seek help; strengthening both prevention and response to child abuse, and coordinating between state and national levels.
Similar baseline reports on child protection have been produced in five countries Pacific countries, and most recently in the Marshall Islands and Palau. These countries have used the key findings and recommendations of their reports to plan and take action to strengthen prevention and response to abuse and violence. Also, the baselines are being used to measure their progress against goals they have set. We hope the baseline in the Federated States of Micronesia will serve a similar purpose for agreeing on goals and then monitoring progress.
Dr. Allen said, “I sincerely appreciate the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia for its leadership and commitment in carrying out the two reports launched today. I acknowledge and congratulate the collective efforts of the national and state governments, civil society and particularly the leadership of the Department of Health and Social Welfare. The research was truly a collective effort and would not have been possible without the inputs from departments, organisations and individuals who generously and effectively contributed their time and expertise. We also appreciate the funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs which made possible the Child Protection Research and Report.”
About UNICEF: UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicefpacific.org
For more information, please contact Donna Hoerder, UNICEF on (679) 3236 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org