Today is Universal Children's Day.
It is the day when children's rights are recognised and promoted all across the world. But here, in Trinidad and Tobago, there remains a disturbing trend of child abuse, according to Children's Authority director Sharifa Abdullah-Ali.
As a result, the Authority plans to roll out a public awareness campaign over the next few months to educate parents and the wider public on the issue.
This comes on the heels of numerous acts of violence against children that have engaged national attention in recent weeks.
This week alone, two toddlers--two-year-old Keira Singh and three-year-old Aarti Ramkhalawan—became victims of violence.
Singh was killed when gunmen opened fire on her Diego Martin home, while Ramkhalawan remains at hospital after being stabbed by her father who killed her mother and later committed suicide.
Several videos also depicting violent acts against children made the rounds on social media earlier this month before engaging police attention. Yesterday, Ali-Abdullah said the acts of violence being perpetrated against children were startling and have caused her many sleepless nights.
She was speaking on CCN TV6's Morning Edition programme.
Ali-Abdullah said hundreds of children fall victim to violence and abuse each month in Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the last six months alone, the Authority has dealt with more than 2,500 cases of child abuse, averaging between 400 to 500 cases per month, she said.
Around 150 of these were “emergency cases”.
Ali-Abdullah said sexual abuse accounted for 22 per cent of the cases, while neglect and physical abuse cases were also common.
“The level of violence and the kind of cruelty against children we are seeing is very alarming. We are getting cases of parents who are burning their children's hands on hot stoves. There are parents who are beating their children to a pulp using a rolling pin and other instruments,” she said.
She said some children were beaten mercilessly to the point where medical attention was necessary. Some cases have involved children being denied food or given dog food to eat.
“We have found children, including babies, in human filth,” she said.
“It is very, very alarming and very, very concerning the kinds of cases that are coming to us. It is a disturbing trend.”
Also speaking on the programme, Cheryl Moses-Williams, public education and communications manager of the Children's Authority, said the media has a crucial role to play in educating the public.
She said the media must be careful in their reporting of issues involving children.
The public education campaign will involve a seminar for media practitioners, as well as visits to schools and meetings with parents and other stakeholders, Moses-Williams said. • See Page 19