Eritrea’s Effort in Respecting the Rights and Interests of Children

By:Sabrina Solomon

International Children’s Day was celebrated on 20th November for the 30th time in Eritrea and the 63rd time internationally.

The Government of Eritrea has been working to create the necessary conditions and opportunities for children to ensure their psychological, physical, and mental well-being. It has designed policies and strategies to support and guide children, for them to enjoy special protection, and to have access to opportunities and facilities. Eritrea has made impressive progress in attaining children’s rights over the years.

In terms of health care progress has been made in prenatal and postnatal care resulting in a reduction in infant mortality. Vaccinations carried out nationally help reduce mortality and disabilities among children. Reports show that polio has been eradicated, malaria has been reduced by 90% and the incidence of neonatal tetanus is less than one percent. This has been made possible because of the Government’s unremitting commitment to make health care accessible all over the country, including remote locations.

The Government’s commitment to ensure children’s welfare is also seen in education. Schools are built all over the country so that all children could go to school to grow mentally, physically, and spiritually.

To raise awareness of the society about the right guidance and support for children, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) works with other stakeholders. Committees that work to bring an end to underage marriages and protect children’s and women’s rights have also been formed. Such committees at regional and sub-regional levels give protection to disabled children with a special focus on those who have extreme disabilities. Special schools for disabled children have also been set up, including the school for the deaf and Down’s syndrome.

Although orphanages provide homes to children who are left without parents, community-based rehabilitation programs have been found to be more effective and beneficial to children. As Mr. Mehreteab Fessehaye, Director General of the MLSW, said a couple of years ago, “Eritrea’s community-based rehabilitation program served the best interests of the child much better than institutional mechanisms, and the integration of orphans into their extended families had proven to be a cost-effective, sustainable and useful approach to the psychosocial healing of those children. Institutional facilities were only used as a last resort for the placement of children in difficult circumstances.” He added, “The policies issued by various governmental entities on the right and welfare of the Eritrean child attested to the endeavors of the government to guarantee the development of the child to the maximum extent possible.”

In Eritrea, the concept and principles of the best interest of a child were inherited in the customs and culture of the Eritrean people and expressed in popular sayings such as “our children are our future”.

International Children’s Day was established in 1954 as a universal children’s day and is commemorated on 20th November to promote international togetherness and to improve child welfare. The convention on the rights of children was the first international convention ratified by Eritrea following its independence in 1993, signifying that the rights of the child are a top priority. Eritrea has been commemorating International Children’s Day by organizing events such as performances by children, exhibitions, and speeches.