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Addressing the most vulnerable children

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 22
Three mobile teams, as well as four daycare and overnight centers have already become operational in Tbilisi to address the needs of hundreds of children working and living on the streets. The information was provided through the information meeting for journalists on September 17. UNICEF, the EU and various ministry representatives informed journalists over the issues related to the vulnerable children.

Reaching Vulnerable Children in Georgia-Children Living and Working on the Streets was launched in August 2013 and will be completed in December 2014. The project was donated by the European Union (EU) and is being implemented by UNICEF through cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, Finance, and the Tbilisi Municipality. The NGOs World Vision, Caritas Georgia and Child and Environment are providing the children with appropriate, individually tailored services. The initiative has so far supported 350 children in Tbilisi. In November the program will become operational in Kutaisi with one mobile team and a day care/crisis intervention center to be established.

After the project concludes, it will be handed to the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection.

The initiative has established services and mechanisms that identify children living and working on the streets, it offer them immediate support and protection and work with them and their families with the ultimate goal of integrating them into existing social and child protection services.

“The most important fact is that the state mechanism has been established to support children living and working on the streets. Such a mechanism did not exist before and the efforts of the government in this regard are highly appreciated,” says Sascha Graumann, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.

“Poverty is one of the main factors leading children to the streets. In Georgia, 50, 000 children live below the extreme poverty line of GEL 2 per day. Violence in the family, drug abuse or alcoholism and family dysfunction are among other contributing factors to starting life on the street. There is an urgent need to tackle poverty and strengthen the existing social protection mechanisms in order to address the needs of these vulnerable children and families,” Graumann added.

The program also trained professionals like mobile team members, representatives of day-care/crisis intervention and transition centers and police officers to provide adequate services to children.

Maka Peradze from the Ministry of Interior Affairs stated that 200 police officers were trained concerning the needs and key actions towards the children living and working on the streets. She told The Messenger that there is a special number- 1505, through which police officer and ordinary citizens can address to appropriate structures in the case of incidents concerning the category of children.

She also stated that there are various gaps in the legislation that hinders adequate support to the children. A working group was formed in spring 2014 to identify any legal gaps that limit the rights of children or restrict their access to services such as education, health and social services. The working group will submit the specific recommendations to the Parliament before the end of 2014.

A health and social fund has been established to cover individual healthcare and the social needs of children living and working on the streets. In addition, the fund can serve as a one-time supporter to the reunification of the street children with their biological families.

The initiative is closely cooperating with the Ministry of Education and Science in developing the “Second Chance Education Programme” for children who never attended school or dropped out of school. The program will allow children living and working on the streets to enroll in schools and catch up with the learning process.

Representative from the Ministry of Healthcare Gaioz Talakvadze stated that the project was very important and the ministry was ready to prolong it. He told The Messenger that some new service might be added to the project, as well as an information campaign to raise public awareness concerning the problem.