PANAMA CITY – Half of the world’s children suffer from the impact of violence against them, a problem that in Latin America has reached shocking levels challenging authorities to create laws prohibiting it, a top United Nations official said on Thursday.
The UN secretary general’s special representative on violence against children, Marta Santos Pais, of Portugal, said in an interview with EFE that “every five minutes there’s a child who dies as a result of ... violence.”
Over the past year, half of the world’s children have suffered some sort of psychological, physical, sexual or online violence, Santos said.
“It’s clearly a problem of great concern and so it’s been included as a priority in the new Global Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which opens up an enormous opportunity for us to change things,” she said.
For the first time in the Global Agenda, approved two years ago, participatory nations included a specific goal of eliminating all sorts of violence against children by 2030.
Santos, who is participating in the 5th World Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (CNRC) in the Panamanian capital, said that the situation in Latin America – where 8 percent of the murders of children occur – along with Central America is alarming.
Unicef figures for 2017 show that one-quarter of the murders of children or teenagers occur in Latin America.
The Unicef statistics also show that in Latin America 1.1 million teens between 15-19 have experienced sexual violence or some kind of forced sexual act, while two-thirds of children suffer from some kind of violent disciplinary measures at home, with half of all 15-year-olds being subjected to physical punishment.
But Santos said that the official UN figures are just a part of the story because “children are very afraid to tell their stories” and witnesses do not do so either, adding that it’s important to note that “violence within families (is) the most frequent” type of violence perpetrated against children.
She said, however, that because the countries of the region are working on national plans and policies and are recrafting laws to prevent and eliminate violence against children, there has been “very positive” progress since 2006.