Eritrea’s Progress in Promoting and Protecting the Rights and Welfare of the Child Evaluated by the ACERWC
Eritrea’s national report on the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), covering the period 2014-2019, was presented to and discussed with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), on 23rd of March 2022, at the 39th session of the Committee being held virtually.
It is to be noted that Eritrea signed and ratified the ACRWC in 2000, and in 2016 presented to the Committee its initial report on the implementation of the Charter, covering the period from 2000-2013.
The latest report was presented to the ACRWC by a high-level Eritrean delegation led by H.E. Ms. Luul Gebreab, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, and composed of officials and experts from several Ministries including Labour and Social Welfare, Education, Foreign Affairs, Health, Justice, as well as the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) and the Embassy of the State of Eritrea in Ethiopia and Permanent Mission to AU and UNECA.
The report underscored that despite the challenges the country is facing, Eritrea continues to make significant progress in all areas that pertain to the rights and welfare of the Child, and consequently fulfilling its commitments under the ACRWC and UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other relevant instruments.
The national report states that in the law and justice sector, the National Charter of Eritrea adopted in 1994 envisaged to ensure the rights of children and provide them with appropriate upbringing and care, that would make them active and responsible adult citizens. Eritrea’s national laws, which inter alia includes the Civil Code of Eritrea, Penal Code of Eritrea, and the Penal and Civil Procedure Codes of Eritrea as well as the Labour Proclamation No.118/2001, provide the legal basis for the protection of the rights of children.
The ‘minimum age of work’ and ‘the best interest of the child’ have been clearly stipulated as guiding principles in the Civil Code of Eritrea. In conformity with the ACRWC requirements, and other instruments to which Eritrea is a party, the principle of non-discrimination is firmly incorporated in the Eritrean legal system.
The report states that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in coordination with other government institutions, regional administrations, and civil society organizations developed a comprehensive national policy on children in 2016.
Moreover, the report gave an overview on Eritrea’s achievements in key social sectors. In the Education sector, the national policy promoted and upholds the right of every child to education. Free access is provided from the primary to the tertiary level. Taking into consideration the fledgling national economy this is a massive investment by the government. The number of schools in the country rose from 132 in 1991 to 1987 in 2017, of which 80% were in rural areas. The number of students more than tripled, from 200,000 to around 700,000; and at a tertiary level from 1200 to 14,000. The adult literacy rate rose from 20% to 80%.
In the health sector, the national health policy of 2020 and the national health sector strategic development plan (2017-2021), prioritize family and community health care services in all health facilities. The availability of health care facilities within a radius of 10 km increased from 46% in 1991 to 80% in 2019. As a result, maternal mortality rate dropped from 998/100,000 in 1995 to 185/100,000 in 2019; under-five child mortality dropped from 153/1000 in 1990 to 136/1000 in 1995 to 63/1000 in 2010 to 30/1000 in 2019; communicable diseases – malaria and tuberculosis are almost controlled and HIV prevalence dropped to 0.63%. Thanks to these and the progress made in other social sectors, life expectancy jumped from 48 in 1991 to 66 years (male/female) in 2018.
The report also indicates that access to adequate and safe drinking water jumped from 30% to 80% of households. Access to electricity reached 43.5%. Vegetation coverage of the landmass rose from 1% to 13%.
In its effort to ensure gender equality, the Eritrean Government developed a Five-Year Gender Action Plan which covered 2015-2019. The Action Plan aims at ensuring women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming in all development programs.
Although the government and people of Eritrea recognize the magnitude of the progress achieved thus far, they are not relenting their efforts in further strengthening Child rights and welfare as well as achieving other development objectives. It is from this conviction that in 2019, Eritrea declared 11 strategy and policy areas to further embark on sustainable development. In a nutshell, this strategy focuses on the “maximum utilization of available resources by a rigorous review of fundamental programs that will buttress tangible economic growth through higher productivity and increased output.”
After the presentation of the report, members of the Committee raised questions and sought clarifications. The Eritrean delegation provided detailed, comprehensive, sector-by-sector responses.
The exchange was concluded on a positive note with the Committee commending the significance Eritrea accords to the rights and welfare of the child as well as its constant engagement with the ACERWC in fulfilling its reporting obligations. The Eritrean Delegation also expressed its gratitude to the Committee for constructively engaging in the consideration of the report. The Delegation reiterated Eritrea’s resolve to forge ahead in promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of the Child, despite the various challenges it is facing, including the imposition of unjust and illegal unilateral sanctions on it by the US and the EU.
Embassy of the State of Eritrea in the F.D.R. of Ethiopia and
Permanent Mission to the African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa
24 March 2022