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Monday, July 14, 2008

Preventing Child Abuse in Nepal

An interview with Dr. Bhim Acharya

Dr. Bhim Acharya is the director of the Child Health Division of the Nepal Ministry of Health.  HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) recently partnered with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF to launch a child abuse and child sexual abuse detection and prevention training program for Nepali health workers.  HealthRight spoke with Dr. Acharya about the unique training program and how it is raising awareness about an often over-looked problem in Nepal. 

What did you think when you learned of this initiative to develop child abuse prevention trainings for health workers?

When I heard this, I thought of what a difficult job this would be, to develop the curriculum and guidelines for health workers.  [At the time] there was nothing like this in the government sector and the public sector – this is a totally new issue for health workers working with the government, whose curriculum thus far has not included any information on child abuse and child sexual abuse.  That’s how it attracted me.  It is important for us to train our health workers to identify abuse. 

Is child abuse a big problem in Nepal?  How is it viewed?

The issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse is gradually becoming acknowledged in our society.  We cannot compute statistics for the whole country but we can guess that the problem is much greater than what’s thought or recognized.  The main issue is awareness.  Very few people know about child abuse.  Many parents do not know that slapping or beating their child is a kind of abuse.  They think that it’s their right to slap their own children.  But by definition – that’s abuse. 

How does the training program work?

We have trained master trainers in five regions throughout Nepal, and then those trainers go on to train others.  Our aim is to reach most of the health workers in Nepal, so that child abuse and child sexual abuse becomes an integrated part of the health curriculum, and so that abuse in the community is stopped.  We have developed two manuals.  One is for training participants, on topics such as what child abuse and child sexual abuse are, how to identify signs of abuse, the legalities of abuse, and the health workers’ role in investigating and preventing abuse.  The other is a book for the trainers with detailed guidelines on what to teach, how to teach, and how to evaluate the success of training sessions. 

How has this partnership between HealthRight and the Ministry of Health worked?

It’s good that [HealthRight] has taken this initiative to make health workers and the public sector aware about child abuse and child sexual abuse.  Since the very beginning of the project, I see that we are finding success in our mission, and I hope that this work will be continued over many years.