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Safeguarding children

Child protection is a developing field in Cambodia and Angkor Hospital for Children is at the forefront of building awareness and knowledge in this area.

However, while the hospital has a mulita-disciplinary child protection team, made up of 15 staff members with considerable experience, awareness still needs to be raised, even within AHC, so that cases are not missed and are dealt with appropriately.

Last month, 30 AHC staff members joined a Child Protection Workshop to gain a greater insight into issues surrounding child protection and staff members’ legal rights and obligations.

AHC’s Senior Social Work Technical Officer Sorn Sokchea says the guest speakers at the workshop included an FBI representative who talked about exploitation, grooming of children and how to talk to boys who have been sexually abused.

A lawyer from the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre was also a guest speaker, providing valuable information on Cambodia’s laws around child protection and the avenues that staff can take if they suspect a child is being abused.

“In our work, we build capacity,” Sokchea says. “But we also have the case where we implement daily by working closely with doctor, nurse etc and working as a partner with local authorities from commune level to provincial level. We also work with child protection NGOs in Cambodia.”

A study conducted in 2013 by UNICEF and the Cambodian government found significant levels of child sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the community but health workers still need more training and support to recognize and adequately manage these cases.

Child abuse has long-term effects on physical and mental health and commonly affects educational outcomes, impacting the child’s future income and socioeconomic status, their future families and the wider society.

Most children cannot, or will not, voluntarily disclose abuse, so health workers and others working with children have a duty to be vigilant and report suspected cases to the police or hospital child protection team. If abuse is unrecognized, the child will continue to suffer harm and in some cases, this can even result in death.

Child protection relies on clinical skills, recording a patient’s history, and some low-tech investigations such as x-rays, and can be an extremely cost-effective life-saving endeavor.

AHC held its first child protection workshop in 2005 and implemented a Child Protection Policy in 2013. Regular workshops are now provided with a multidisciplinary Khmer instructor team delivering the course in Khmer.
Senior staff, Dr Lov Ke and Sorn Sokchea contributed to Cambodia’s first Clinical Handbook of Healthcare for Children Subjected to Violence or Sexual Abuse.

There are many misconceptions about what constitutes abuse, and also what can be done, particularly in collaboration with partner agencies.

The child protection workshop added valuable insights and important capacity building for AHC staff, who continue to push boundaries in this area to strengthen child protection in Cambodia.

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