By Gabriel Mureithi, Child Protection in Emergencies Expert, World Vision Kenya
Kenya, a nation of diverse landscapes and rich culture, has often stood resilient in the face of various challenges.
However, the recurring disasters of floods, droughts, fires and unrest have cast a shadow on this beautiful nation.
Numerous unprecedented droughts, impacting nearly all Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) counties, has left millions in need of humanitarian assistance.
Among the most vulnerable victims in such emergencies are children, who face not only physical hardships but also dire implications on their access to essential services like health, water and education.
It is in times of crises like these, that the true mettle of a nation and its people are tested. Therefore, in recognition of the critical importance of safeguarding children in emergencies, a significant milestone has been achieved through the collaborative efforts of World Vision Kenya, the government, among other stakeholders. The fruit of their collective labour is the inaugural Operational Guidelines for Child Protection in Emergencies, which was unveiled on June 22, 2023.
The guidelines are a ground-breaking step towards ensuring child-centred emergency preparedness, response and recovery in Kenya.
They provide humanitarian actors with a structured blueprint to effectively address child protection concerns during times of crises.
By integrating the principles of survival, development, non-discrimination and inclusion, these guidelines place children at the heart of all emergency interventions.
Access to clean water is a pressing concern in drought-affected regions, which adversely affects children. As such, the guidelines tackle this issue head-on.
It offers assessment tools to ensure effective planning and roll-out of interventions for enhancing access to clean and safe water for schools and communities – in times of drought and beyond – so as to safeguard the well-being of children.
The essence of "do no harm," a core humanitarian principle, resonates throughout the guidelines. It emphasises the fact that advocacy efforts during emergencies should be grounded in impartial assistance, empowering individuals to claim their rights and strengthening child protection systems through various initiatives. The guidelines therefore epitomise a dedication to ensuring that children are protected from further harm in the aftermath of emergencies.
As citizens of this great nation, we must recognise that the safeguarding of children in times of crises or emergencies is not solely the responsibility of government and humanitarian agencies. It is also a collective duty that each one of us must embrace, so as to ensure that no child is left behind in their hour of need.
By supporting the implementation of these guidelines, we can contribute to a future where Kenya's resilience is fortified, and the image of our beautiful nation is preserved, not only in good times but also in times of hardship.