WHO Suggests Guidelines For Child And Sexual Abuse Prevention And Management In Africa

WHO Suggests Guidelines For Child And Sexual Abuse Prevention And Management In Africa

Brazzaville, 2 September 2004 -- Child and sexual abuse can be prevented and better managed through a set of priority interventions such as vigorous advocacy and communication, enhanced law enforcement and the development of a standardized protocol for clinical care and management.

Child and sexual abuse has been defined as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that the child cannot comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared or which violates the social taboos of society.

The interventions for the prevention and management of child and sexual abuse, proposed by the World Health Organization, also include multidisciplinary and coordinated responses, the rehabilitation of child and sexual abuse survivors as well as community-based surveillance, support, monitoring and reporting.

"Child and sexual abuse is a silent emergency", WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Samba says. "It goes unnoticed; it is grossly under-reported and poorly managed. It is surrounded by a culture of silence and stigma especially when it occurs within the sanctuary of the home by someone the child knows and trusts".

"An extremely serious concern is the increased incidence of rape involving very young children and babies due to the misconception that sex with a virgin is a cure for HIV/AIDS", Dr Samba adds in a paper to be discussed at the annual assembly of health ministers of the WHO African Region taking place from 30 August to 3 September in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

Dr Samba identifies some of the major contributing factors to child sexual abuse as poverty, weak legal systems, breakdown of family and social systems, armed conflicts, and, in some cases, affluence. "These risk factors open the doors for child labour, trafficking, prostitution and pornography", he adds.

He maintains that no child anywhere is safe because child sexual abuse often occurs in places normally considered safe: homes, schools, and playgrounds. Children, lacking maturity to understand sexual abuse and the vocabulary to report it, are coerced, sworn to secrecy or threatened by the perpetrator - usually someone known and trusted by the child.

Dr Samba urges greater commitment by Member States to international treaties and conventions on human rights which focus on child rights and protection. Countries should also develop or strengthen national legal frameworks for the implementation and management of child sexual abuse in partnership with families, religious leaders, youth organizations, leaders, community-based organizations, NGOs, relevant government ministries and the public and private institutions.

WHO, he says, will continue to provide technical assistance to countries for the development and implementation of tools and guidelines for advocacy, training, monitoring and evaluation of child and sexual abuse.

For further information: 

Media contact:   Technical Contact:

Public Information & 

Communication Unit

Samuel T. Ajibola

Tel: +47 241 39378

E-mail: ajiboilas [at] afro.who.int 


Dr D. Oluwole

Tel : +47 241 39478

Email: oluwoled [at] afro.who.int