Africa Union’s (AU) Day for the African Child was commemorated for the first time in Ghana with refugee children at the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Western Region. The 2019 AU Day of the African Child (DAC) was on the theme ‘Humanitarian Action in Africa; Children’s Rights First’
The selection of the 2019 DAC theme recognizes the consequences that armed conflict and tension bring to bear on children. Humanitarian crisis often have far-reaching implications and affects all levels of society, with children being the most vulnerable to the impacts, reports have shown. Humanitarian action provides life-saving services and facilitates the return to normalcy for people and communities affected by such disasters.
The Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection (MoGCSP) this year collaborated with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Ghana Refugee Board together with UNICEF, Plan International and other Partners to mark the day with a beautiful durbar in Ampain Refugee Camp in the Western Region. The choice of hosting this year’s event in Ampain, which is currently the largest refugee camp in Ghana, aligns with the theme and in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mantra of leaving no one behind.
The Acting Director for the Department of Children of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection Ms. Florence Ayisi Quartey said the theme for this year’s commemoration was a follow up on last year’s theme “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”. She added this year’s celebration also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which Ghana was the first country to ratify. She called on all relevant stakeholders to work assiduously to protect children during humanitarian situations to ensure they reach their maximum potential.
UNHCR Country Representative, Ms. Esther Kiragu in her address noted that humanitarian assistance on its own cannot address the issues facing people in refugee situations. She called for concrete empowerment and support, especially in the area of education, livelihoods and inclusion in social protection schemes along with the host communities.
Ms. Kiragu also emphasized the importance of education explaining that although refugee children have access to free basic education, there are still challenges. “Since it is a day of Children, let us take education. While they have access to free primary and lower secondary school education, there is need for more classrooms to obviate overcrowding. There is need for accommodation for service providers. UNHCR has contributed to some extent, but there are still major gaps” Ms. Kiragu noted. She further highlighted the challenges with tertiary education where funding opportunities are limited for refugees thus denying many worthy youth the opportunity.
UNICEF Representative and UN Resident Coordinator a.i, Ms. Anne-Claire Duffay on her part noted that forced displacement can have negative lingering consequences on children where their basic rights may be impacted. “They may not receive education, attain good healthcare or have an adequate standard of living. In many instances, the events that forced children and their families to flee may result in negatively impacting children’s psychological as well as physical wellbeing” she said. “We met 11 year old Ella in the Camp this morning. She mentioned that she is happy here. She has a shelter, she goes to school and has good friends” which according to Ms. Duffay are good examples of the welcoming integration in Ghana. She lauded the efforts of UNHCR, the Ghana Refugee Board and other Partners and called on government to ensure refugees are included in national plans and that the host communities also get some support. She called for a sustainable development agenda that is inclusive as the Sustainable Development Goals is for everyone, including refugee children.
Ahead of the commemoration of the Day, the Department of Children organized a health screening exercise for about 500 refugee children in the camp where staff of the Ghana Health Service screened the children.