43 million children are  living in out-of-home-care in the south asian countries

All countries in the South Asian region need strengthening of Alternative Care for Children

Ashraf Ali Bastavi

 New Delhi : An estimated 43 million children who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia. The region is prone to natural disasters and conflict, making the children extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse. Even though the vulnerabilities of orphan and abandoned children in the whole of SA is humongous, none of the countries in the region has any concrete data of how many children live outside family care, making it extremely difficult to address their concerns effectively.

The region has low economical status and poverty is seen to exist in almost all SA countries. Often, issues of migration and livelihoods, force families to abandon their child and enter informal or formal forms of Alternative Care. In extreme circumstances when children cannot live with their family or close relatives, such vulnerable children are pushed to Alernative Care where they are expected to be taken care of by the state.

According to experts, all countries in the South Asian region need strengthening of Alternative Care for Children (ACC), given its huge population of vulnerable children. There is also a need to strengthen family-based care in order to prevent children from entering alternative care facilities and remain in a family environment where they grow in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. However, the absence of data makes this task extremely difficult for organisations involved in childcare.

“There is dearth of evidence-based research studies and authentic segregated data on this issue in the region. There is a need to come out with that data on a priority basis,” says Dr. Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee, Udayan Care.

“Often lack of these numbers lead to low investments and financing from the governments. If you see the recent budget announced by the Govt of India, the total budgetary allocations for children is at a low of 3.2%.”

There is also a need for regional thinking on how to prevent and mitigate this heightened risk and vulnerability to violence, abuse and neglect of children in South Asia. Although there are models of care prevalent in the region that can be seen as good practices and be up-scaled, they are hardly documented and shared among stakeholders. South Asian countries can learn from each other, given the cultural similarities in the region. However, the SA countries stand at different levels on laws and policies, and there is a complete lack of a regional level co-operation or mechanism on this critical aspect of child protection.

“We need to push the agenda of improving alternative care of children to the centre stage in the governments of these countries, and develop a common regional framework to track progress of implementing the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care at the regional level,” adds Dr. Modi.

Some of the things that the South Asian region needs to do on a priority basis include a) improve knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings in South Asia, b) examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on ACC in South Asia, and c) share and exchange experiences, research and models of care on ACC in South Asia. Towards this, Udayan Care has been organising biennial international conference on different aspects of Alternative Care with a focus on South Asia, since 2014.

Global experience has clearly demonstrated that Alternative Care for Children in order to be successful and protect children’s rights can be a highly complex and multi-faceted process. It requires careful planning at all levels and close involvement of all stakeholders and role players. Putting together data of vulnerable children living in out-of-home-care is crucial and will help both the policy makers and community organizations create a robust plan for combatting issues of vulnerable children in the region.

 In 2017, South Asia was impacted by large-scale natural and human-caused disasters. One of the worst floods in decades affected more than 40 million people and killed over 2,000 people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.In Nepal, which is still recovering from the 2015 earthquake.

At the end of August, thousands of Rohingya fled into Bangladesh following large-scale violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.

This triggered one of the fastest growing humanitarian crises in the world, with 623,000 Rohingya, half of whom are children, having fled the country by November 2017.

There are expected 15000 orphans and unaccompanied children caught in the strife in Bangladesh. Afghanistan remains fourth on the global risk index and home to one of the most violent armed conflicts and protracted crises in the world. Malnutrition is a major challenge in Afghanistan, where 1.3 million children under 5 require treatment for acute malnutrition, and polio transmission remains endemic in the eastern part of the country.

stark reality of 31 million orphans in India and shocked by the condition of institutions housing them, a few like-minded people came together to form Udayan Care – which got registered in 1994 as a Public Charitable Trust. Udayan Care works to empower vulnerable children, women and youth, in 19 cities across 11 states of India through its Udayan Ghar Programme

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