Strengthening Child Protection Systems in the Philippines: Child Protection in Emergencies

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Executive Summary

The Philippines is a growing socio-economic presence in South-East Asia. It has an annual growth rate of more than 7 per cent, and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The well-being and successful growth and development of children in the Philippines are vital to the achievement of national development goals and targets. The centrality of children to the national agenda is clearly reflected in Philippine Government strategies and development policies.

In November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck the Visayan Islands. It had a devastating impact on the Philippines, and highlighted the risks posed to this nation of 7,000 islands by the growing threat of climate change. The particular threats to children in this situation (including separation from family and parents, displacement from home/shelter/schools, exposure to violence and abuse, and a lack of safe spaces where they could access basic services and psychosocial care and support), demonstrated that the existing Child Protection (CP) Systems had been severely disrupted and were in most cases not functional. In the immediate aftermath, systems were unable to cope with the protection needs of thousands of displaced and highly vulnerable children.

The UNICEF Philippines Child Protection section has made efforts in recent years to prioritize CP Systems Building as a strategy for development, in contrast to previous programmes and projects that targeted specific groups of children. However, limited programme resources did not encourage extensive work in this area. Then, the emergency resources generated in the global response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda suddenly provided a critical opportunity to direct response and relief efforts towards CP Systems strengthening, in an effort to ‘build back better’ and address the damage to the system resulting from the emergency. It also afforded an opportunity to address pre-existing weaknesses in the CP System.

This report reviews and analyses how the CP work implemented during Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda provided an opportunity to tackle the problem of CP Systems building while responding to the immediate need for relief and recovery during the emergency and its aftermath* .

The Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda emergency generated a huge, multi-level humanitarian response by a range of national and international actors, which worked very well in many respects. Specifically, UNICEF Child Protection recognized the demand for support to CP Systems as part of longer-term response and recovery, and worked with the Government, local communities and partners to strengthen CP Systems and identify key child protection needs.

UNICEF initiatives to support CP Systems strengthening during the emergency response and recovery included Project Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) with civil society organisations to strengthen Local Councils for the Protection of Children (LCPC), and support for priority Local Government Units (LGUs). A unique feature of the emergency response in an effort to channel resources more directly to community-based systems and institutions was the provision of funds directly to LGUs. This facilitated targeted work planning by each sector to design the best response. Substantial progress on CP Systems building was achieved, primarily through LCPC strengthening in the 40 Haiyan/Yolanda-affected priority LGUs. A report, ‘Documentation of Child Protection Systems Strengthening Initiatives in Typhoon Haiyan Areas’, captures this work.

UNICEF established partnerships through PCAs with nine agencies, all of which emphasized elements of CP Systems building, targeting CP priorities including strengthening social work, and establishing national guidelines for Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) and psychosocial support (PSS).

A key initiative was UNICEF’s partnership with the Development Academy of the Philippines to enhance the Child-Friendly Local Governance Course to incorporate Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE), and thereby strengthen the capacity of LGUs nationwide to better prepare and respond.

UNICEF also funded social workers in target Haiyan/Yolanda-affected municipalities to follow up on outstanding cases, especially those concerning children separated from caregivers and families during the emergency.

In addition, UNICEF is working with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) to replace civil registration documentation including birth certificates to some 80,000 people, using mobile outreach services to reach poor women and children from the most affected areas.

Despite these significant achievements, numerous challenges remain in the emergency response and efforts to address CP Systems Building as an integral component of the Haiyan/Yolanda strategic response. These include maintaining momentum for a sustainable recovery, and strengthening national and local CP systems in the process.

The primary purpose of this report is to explore the extent to which the emergency response has contributed to strengthening the national CP system in the Philippines, and how it might continue to do so.

This report finds clear evidence that considerable progress has been made against system strengthening indicators, as a result of international and national collaboration after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, and through CP efforts in ongoing conflict regions. CP and family welfare are established on the agendas of both the Government and, importantly, community organisations, including barangay councils.1 The work of international agencies in initiating and supporting disaster relief and recovery efforts has added significantly to the arsenal of national child protective priorities and mechanisms in the Philippines. Learning and innovation introduced during the response to the ongoing conflict in parts of the country also provide valuable lessons that might be expanded to national level.

However, despite these achievements, challenges still face some aspects of CP systems strengthening work.