Ghana has submitted the consolidated report on national development strategy for the protection of children to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), 28 Ordinary session and the 12 Pre-session of the Committee meeting at Banjul, Gambia.
Mrs Della Sowah, Deputy Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection, presenting the report explained that Ghana ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on July 15, 2005 as guided by the 1992 Constitution and the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) and other legislations, laws and policies, and institutional mechanisms, the nation has striven steadily to achieve the rights, and improve the welfare of children.
The Committee is Chaired by Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur is of eleven individuals of high moral standing, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of the rights and welfare of the child which are mandated to monitor and report on the fulfillment of child rights in Africa.
Mrs Sowah said owing to Ghana’s quick ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990, steps were already advanced prior to Ghana’s ratification of the Charter. Progress was already enabled for the implementation of the Convention, which also made it possible to implement the Children’s Charter.
Ghana had already made significant inroads in creating systems and structures that enabled the implementation of children’s rights. Since 2005, various policies, legislations, institutional reforms have been carried out in line with the tenets of the ACRWC.
Mrs Sowah who is the leader of Ghana’s Delegation appearing before ACRWC said the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (2014 – 2017) (GSGDA) II, the flagship national development policy provides series of medium-term national development policy frameworks with direct focus on children as captured under “Key Focus Area 10” on ‘Child Development and Protection’ under “theme 6” on Human Development, Productivity and Decent Work.
She said the key strategies for children include promoting advocacy and creating public awareness on the rights of children; formulation and implementation of key policies and appropriate programmes to enhance child protection and development, and mainstreaming children’s issues in development planning at all levels especially those of children with special needs.
She said to establish a child protection system that is ‘fit for Ghana’ and able to address the peculiar needs of children in Ghana, the Government adopted a Child and Family Welfare Policy (CFWP) on February 19. 2015 which seeks to establish a well-structured and coordinated Child and Family Welfare System that promotes the wellbeing of children, prevents abuse and protect children from harm. The overall goal of the CFWP is to establish an effective child and family welfare system.
She said the Government has also adopted a Justice for Children Policy (JfCP) to guide the interaction of children with the justice system of Ghana. It also seeks to establish a well-structured and coordinated Justice for Children System that promotes the wellbeing of children, prevent abuse, protect children from harm and promote justice for children.
The JfCP focuses on all categories of children in contact with the justice system as victims of crimes, witnesses, offenders and other crimes involving children.Mrs Sowah also explained the constitutional, statutory, policy and institutional framework, which guarantees the rights of children and enjoins Parliament to enact laws to further realise these rights and ensure the wellbeing of children.
She said Parliament has enacted the Children’s Act 1998 (Act 560), Juvenile Justice Act 2003 (Act 653), Human Trafficking Act 2005 (Act 694), Disability Act 2006 (Act 715), Whistle Blowers Act 2006 (Act 720), the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, Education Act 2008 (Act 778), and the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 849) to name a few.
Two Legislative Instruments (LIs) to fully operationalize the Human Trafficking Act and Domestic Violence Act have been finalised. Further protection is also being provided for children in the Property Rights of Spouses Bill, Affirmative Action Bill and the Intestate Succession (Amendment) Bill, which are also being finalised through the parliamentary processes for passage into law.
The Gender Minister said in fulfilment of Ghana’s obligation under the ACRWC to protect and safeguard the rights and welfare of the child, the Government has prioritised its interventions for girls, children with disabilities, children of asylum seekers, refugee children and children of immigrants, children exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, children living with HIV/AIDS and children living or working on the streets or both.
In addition, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) – among its various functions – has striven to improve the nutritional status of children by improving maternal nutrition and capacity-building of health staff in skills and competencies for counselling, and essential nutrition actions. Since 2008, the Community-based management of acute malnutrition has been implemented and is currently in 97 Districts. It helps with early identification and treatment of severely malnourished children in their communities.
She said the country has also initiated a model for community-based health service delivery known as the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) which takes health care closer to the people.“There has been a significant increase in the number of functional CHPS compounds nationwide following the relatively slow start in CHPS implementation over the previous years. Implementation of functional CHPS compounds, for instance, increased from 868 in 2009 to 2226 in 2012, to 2580 in 2013 and to 3,914 in 2015.
“This increase has also been met with a correlated increase in the number of community health officers, most of whom have already had training in CHPS service delivery as part of their pre-service training,” she said.On HIV/AIDS prevalence among children, Mrs Sowah explained that Ghana has done remarkably well to reduce the prevalence rate, from a high prevalence of 3.4 per cent in 2004 to 1.37 per cent in 2015. Ghana is noted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) as one of five countries in West Africa whose prevalence declined by more than 25 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
“The successes chalked by the nation in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS can be attributed to a number of policies and programme interventions covering awareness-raising campaigns, capacity-building of relevant staff and direct support services for people living with HIV and AIDS.
“HIV prevalence among pregnant women attending antenatal clinic has dropped from 2.1 per cent in 2012 to 1.6 per cent in 2014. The 2014 survey showed that HIV prevalence rate was really stabilising below two per cent. Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services have been integrated into sexual and reproductive health services.
“This has ensured wider access to women in reproductive ages. It is also recorded that in 2012, 70 per cent of all HIV-positive pregnant women received Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication to prevent MTCT, an increase from the 2011 coverage of 50 per cent”.The Committee within the framework of the commemorative activities to mark 2016 as the “African human rights year, with particular focus on the rights of women”, is meeting in Banjul, Islamic Republic of The Gambia.
The Committee is considering State Parties Reports from Ghana, Cameroon, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone and also examine Complementary Reports from Civil Societies Organizations of State Parties to the Charter.The Committee draws its mandate from articles 32-46 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the OAU on 11th July 1990 and came into force on 29th November 1999.