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Needs of homeless children in focus

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, February 28
A two-year project for Reaching Vulnerable Children in Georgia was officially launched to create new opportunities for children living and working on the streets. The project administered by the Georgian Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs and in cooperation with the Ministries of Justice; Education and Science; Internal Affairs; Finance and the Tbilisi Municipality, will be carried out with the financial support of UNICEF and European Union. The NGOs World Vision, Caritas Georgia and Child and Environment will provide the children with appropriate, individually tailored services.

Four mobile teams of social-workers, psychologists, teachers and peer educators will study the individual cases of children in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi; four day-care centers will help the children develop life skills and provide them with medical and psychological support and give them informal and entertaining education; while the three 24 hour Transition Centers will help children to adapt to an ordinary lifestyle away from streets.

Deputy Healthcare Minister Davit Lomidze said it would be a “pilot project” for identifying systemic problems for further consideration, because as he said, although this problem has been evident in Georgia for a long time, no state programs have been launched to eradicate the problem of street children thus far. Lomidze hoped that inter-ministerial cooperation with local NGOs working on the problems of street children, as well as international donors like UNICEF and the EU would be a success.

EU Ambassador to Georgia Philip Dimitrov told The Messenger that “this is the project that helps” by creating capacity and infrastructure for street children. He said these children have rights and need to be identified as full members of society. “For this they need people who do it, the infrastructure, the mechanism and the capacity,” the ambassador said.

UNICEF Representative in Georgia Sascha Graumann said the children on the streets do not have registration or identification cards, thus they cannot access education and healthcare and often become the subjects of violence. “This means they have fewer chances to become active and well-educated citizens who can contribute to the development of the country,” Graumann said this project would be an “investment in the future.”

According to Mamuka Machavariani, deputy Head of the Social Service Agency of the Ministry of Healthcare, the new initiative aims at developing the community-based and state funded system for harmonious development and social integration of children living and working on the streets through a network of psycho-social rehabilitation services for children that will allow step by step integration of children and their families into the mainstream of child protection and social assistance system.

The guests attending the presentation of the project welcomed the initiative. However, they unanimously admitted that without raising public awareness over the problems of children living or working in the streets, it would be hard to reintegrate them back into society.