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Report: African Children Face 'Extremely' High Violence Levels

FILE - Children sit inside a container truck as they wait to depart to the west of the country towards the border with Cameroon, in a convoy escorted by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces as they flee sectarian violence in the capital Bangu.

African children are facing disproportionately high levels of violence, according to a new report by the African Child Policy Forum. The study calls for more coordinated action to prevent violence against children.

The new report, released Thursday, said African children are subjected to extremely high levels of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and current laws and policies have not been able to tackle this issue.

African Child Policy Forum Executive Director Theophane Nikyema said a coordinated response is needed.

“There has not been much focus on the prevention side when it comes to child protection. And this is why we are advocating for countries to reinforce the child protection system approach. And the system approach calls for looking at the prevention, taking measures for prevention, but also having a coordinated response in terms of protection. And that coordinated response includes government communities, families and all stakeholders,” said Nikyema.

The report is a combination of 75 studies and surveys undertaken in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The findings show that in some countries, such as Mali and Zambia, children receive the majority of physical punishment from family members. But in others, such as Togo and Sierra Leone, most of the violence comes from teachers and classmates.

Sexual violence against girls was found to be especially high almost everywhere; at home, in the wider community, and at schools. Girls in conflict zones are even more vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape.

Nikyema said the report shows there is increasing sexual exploitation of children.

“Sexual tourism is one of them and this is done through different ways, through the Internet [or] through other means. And we certainly need government to pay much more attention on sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, or even children being trafficked out some countries for sexual purposes,” said Nikyema.

Countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco and South Africa are becoming new hot spots for child sex tourism, according to the study.

Abuse against children affects their emotional health and well-being, and can have a negative impact on their development and prospects for a long life.

Nikyema believes that the definition of violence should be clearer so that awareness can be raised in communities.

“Because sometimes children will be punished for discipline, but there is a fine line between discipline and violence. Even the punishment is a violence against a child because it can have psychological effect and mental effect on the child, so therefore we should raise the awareness of the communities of the stakeholders so they understand exactly what is violence,” said Nikyema.

The study was done in cooperation with the African Union. The report will be presented Friday to the AU Commission, along with a recommendation to reinforce policies that focus on preventing violence against African children.