Many Guyanese children abused, neglected
-US State Dept
Stabroek News
April 13, 2003

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The US State Department's 2002 Report on Human Rights in Guyana claims that children under 18 years of age were more severely affected by the country's poverty than any other group. Children under 18 years make up one third of the population according to the report.

It says that though the government provides free education through secondary school, "the severe deterioration of the public education and health care systems limited children's future prospects."

"The public health system was inadequate and private health care was unaffordable for many children. Children often did not attend school because their families needed them to contribute to the household by working or providing childcare for siblings or younger relatives."

It says too that there is rising concern over the effects of domestic violence on children. "It was unclear how many deaths from child abuse took place, since law enforcement officials believed that the vast majority of criminal child abuse cases were unreported."

The report cites a review by Help and Shelter which said that between January and September last year it had received 31 cases of child abuse, which was 8 per cent of all the cases it received during that period.

It says too that in June 2001, the Ministry of Education's Welfare Section stated that reports of physical and sexual abuse of children were on the rise, with an average of two to three cases per month in Georgetown alone.

The report points out, "There were no law enforcement investigative procedures in place to determine if abuse or parental incapacity were the true causes of death in some cases of the 400 children under the age of 5 who die each year, deaths that usually were attributed to malnutrition or disease."

It says too that media reports of rape and incest further indicated that violence against children was a significant problem. It notes that while the Domestic Violence Act allows police officers or social workers to file an application on behalf of an abused child, "there was a lack of social services or trained experts to assist children fleeing sexual, physical, or emotional abuse."

The report says that many children suffered from neglect or abandonment, "particularly when from 1 to 2 per cent of the adult population emigrate each year, often leaving children behind."

The report also cites a UNICEF report that criticised the practice in which girls traded sexual favours for money, gifts, or help in employment or higher education, which it says is "sometimes condoned by their parents yet obscured by cultural norms."

The report also comments on violence against children in public schools, which media reports suggest continue to occur "but noted the unavailability of data on corporal punishment from the Ministry of Education."

It cites the case in June 2001 in which "one student suffered a broken collarbone and another a broken elbow as a result of flogging by their teachers."

"Both teachers involved in the incidents," the report says, "returned to work pending investigations. The Ministry of Education responded to these incidents with a 30-point programme intended to phase out corporal punishment in schools."

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