Points on Violence against children, by WHO...
Each year, at least 55 million children experience some form of violence in the WHO European Region, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological violence.
Emotional and financial costs
Accounting for the underreporting of abuse, it is estimated that of the 204 million children under the age of 18 in the WHO European Region, 9.6% experience sexual abuse, 22.9% experience physical abuse and 29.1% experience emotional abuse. Furthermore, 700 children in the Region are murdered every year.
The cost of violence against children adds up. An estimated US$ 581 billion is spent treating those hurt by violence annually. But the financial cost pales in comparison to the toll on individuals’ health.
It is clear from studies that children who experience violence are at higher risk for mental illness, drug use, alcohol use and obesity, but also for chronic disease later in life.
“Violence against children is chilling and distressing,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO/Europe’s Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course. “Child trauma has a terrible cost, not only to the children and the adults they become, whose lives it wrecks, but to every country’s well-being and economy. With political will, we can all tackle this. Every sector and part of the community can make a difference in making society safer for children. But we need to speed up.”
Laws to protect, on the rise
Governments are showing an increased appetite to tackle the scourge. Overall, the political will to combat violence against children has risen, with 66 per cent of regional countries having prohibited corporal punishment in all settings.
However, passing laws is only part of the solution. In recent years, 83% of countries in the Region have developed a national action plan to stop child maltreatment, but fewer than half of these plans are funded.
Ending “abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children” is also part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As part of WHO’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it incorporated the prevention of violence against children into its 13th General Programme of Work. WHO set a target reduction of 20% in the number of children who have experienced violence in the past 12 months.
WHO Europe’s INSPIRE package is an evidence-based resource that supports countries committed to preventing and addressing assaults against children by identifying seven successful strategies to reduce levels of violence.
“With political will, we can all tackle this”, concluded Ms. Mikkelson. “Every sector and part of the community can make a difference in making society safer for children. But we need to speed up”.
Last week WHO/Europe and the Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia hosted a workshop highlighting the need to tackle violence against children across the European Region. The workshop brought together policy-makers and representatives from partner countries to share knowledge and develop strategies to reduce violence against children.