Milestone child protection initiatives were launched by Vanuatu’s Ministry of Justice and Community Services, the Ministry of Internal Affairs together with UNICEF and other child protection partners on July 20, 2022, kick-starting this year’s Children’s Day celebrations.

The initiatives include new differently coloured and easily identifiable children’s national identification cards, the National Child Protection Referral Pathway, and the free Pikinini (Child) Helpline 163.

Every child has the right to an identity and to live free from violence, exploitation, and abuse. Getting a child registered, issued a birth certificate and a national identification card is a first step to being integrated into Vanuatu society. This is the point of entry at which children can have access to social services.

“Birth registration is the process of recording a child’s birth. It is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence and provides legal recognition of that child’s identity,” stated the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Internal Affairs, Ishmael Kalsakau. “The coloured National ID cards for children will not only assist children to easily access but will also provide priority access to social services to help protect from abuse, neglect and exploitation as it will be easier to identify them as children.”

The tollfree, Pikinini Helpline has been set up to allow anyone to report if they are concerned for the safety or wellbeing of a child, just by calling 163. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and staffed by trained child protection officers. Crucially it enables children at risk to be linked with essential services through the National Child Protection Referral Pathway.

“The Pikinini Helpline and the National Child Protection Referral Pathway are important for reporting of child abuse and to provide coordinated support and protection. The Pikinini Helpline is established to break the silence, to report and denounce the abuses children face at home and in the community,” said the Minister of Justice and Community Services, Esmon Saimon.

“The Referral Pathway outlines the roles of different stakeholders and service providers for support provided to children, such as, psychosocial support, access to healthcare, access to safety and justice,” said Hon. Saimon. “Each family member, community member and leader, and public servant plays a critical role to ensure that the referral system builds a supportive environment where children’s needs are met.”

The initiatives, launched on national children’s day, together form an important set of child protection measures, designed to support the rights of all children in Vanuatu.

“UNICEF congratulates the Government of Vanuatu on these landmark child protection initiatives that together provide the foundational building blocks for protection of children,” stated Chief of the UNICEF Vanuatu Field Office, Eric Durpaire. “While the systems are now in place and there are well trained Child Protection Officers to staff it, there is the need to pursue the promotion of demand for proactive use of the system by children, parents, caregivers, chiefs, pastors, and key community stakeholders.”

“UNICEF encourages the government to continue working to ensure that the Child Protection Bill is enacted by the Parliament,” stated Durpaire.

From 19 until 24 July, a nationally coordinated media campaign with activities to promote key child protection messages is being led by partners throughout Vanuatu. Activities include engagement with schools and communities on bullying, safe schools, and child protection messaging; radio talkback shows streamed live on social media on reporting of abuse cases and on positive parenting and discipline as well as effective communication with children. Child protection partners leading these activities include the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu Christian Council, Vanuatu Police Force, World Vision, Save the Children, and UNICEF.