Cairo seminar highlights issue of child abuse

Ingy Deif, Thursday 6 Jun 2013

The seminar provided doctors with guidelines on how to recognise the signs of abuse in children

El Basma Clinic Facebook page

A seminar on spotting and preventing child abuse took place on Wednesday at Abu El-Reesh Hospital in Cairo, organised by El-Basma Clinic and the Popular Campaign for the Protection of Children.

Seminar attendees were shown a short, dramatic film of the story of a little girl whose abuse, over a hundred years ago, led to the emergence of child protection legislation in Egypt, and mandatory reporting mechanisms.

The aim of the seminar was to raise awareness regarding the issue, to present doctors in the field with guidelines to spot a child being abused, and to shed more light on the available statistics and the efforts on the ground to deal with the problem.

El-Basma Clinic is an example of one of those efforts. Established at Abu-El-Reesh Hospital in 2007, the clinic provides diagnosis and treatment to children living on the streets, raises the awareness of medical professionals by providing lectures and courses on spotting the signs of abuse and handling the issue, and provides courses for homeless children regarding hygiene and healthcare in general.

Dr. Hana Abu El-Ghar, professor of paediatrics at Cairo University and manager of El-Basma Clinic, said that 38 percent of the population in Egypt is under the age of 18. In a recent study in economically deprived areas, 92 percent of the children said they were beaten at school, and 81 percent at home.

In another form of extreme violence, around 74 percent of girls aged 15-17 in rural areas have undergone female genital mutilation, with most operations carried out by medical doctors.

Furthermore, she stated that 21 percent of children aged between 6 and 14 work. Sexual violence also exists, although discussing it is taboo.

Abu El-Ghar stressed the importance of the paediatrician, as they are involved in the lives of children and can have an influence on the behaviour of those in charge of the child, whether they are parents, caregivers or institutions.

"It is about time for children’s hospitals all over Egypt to have what is commonly known as a child protection team that deals with every case that comes into the hospital related to abuse,” she said. 

Dr. Hoda Ibrahim, coordinator of El-Basma Clinic, talked about the clinic as one of the pioneering efforts that help abused and homeless children.

"We try to attract kids by choosing topics that they are interested in. When we spoke about how to treat and give first-aid to an injured friend, they were super excited, as they are always subjected to that," she said.

The seminar provided attendees with information on how to spot abuse – the parents might be socially isolated, there might be signs of poor hygiene and healthcare such as untreated infections or delayed immunisations, and the child might show extreme passivity, negative behaviours like stealing or begging, unexplained injuries or might show a decline in academic performance.

Amira Kotb  from the Popular Campaign for the Protection of Children, which was founded in April 2012 and mans a hotline that children can call if they need help, commented that the legislative framework addressing the issue was adequate, but child protection mechanisms are rarely implemented due to lack of awareness.

She urged people to report suspected abuse and to urge those in charge in governorates to ask child protection committees to act.

The Popular Campaign for the Protection of Children’s hotline is 0115550060.

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