Japan, UNICEF join hands to support conflict-hit

Kathmandu, October 22:

The government of Japan, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are assisting Nepal in providing better protection to families and children displaced by conflicts brought about by extensive political, economic and social changes.

The project ‘Strengthening Decentralised Support for Vulnerable and Conflict-Affected Families and Children,’ estimated to cost $3.08 million, will avail of a $2 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to be managed by ADB, while UNICEF will provide $200,000 in assistance. The government of Nepal and concerned communities will cover the remaining balance, states a Manila-based bank’s statement.

“The overall goal of the project is to improve the situation of conflict-affected and vulnerable families and children in a sustainable manner,” said Axel Weber, social protection specialist of ADB’s South Asia Department.

The project will strengthen the legal framework and capacity of decentralised social services and to pilot an effective child and family protecti-on and support system in five districts, with special focus on quality, participation and sustainability. The project will wo-rk towards sustainable peace and economic development, while addressing caste concerns and gender inequality.

“Political instability and violence have marred Nepal’s recent history. In 2006, the coalition government of the seven-party alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist signed a peace accord, ending a violent 11-year insurgency and providing a path towards lasting peace and sustainable development in Nepal.”

The armed conflict in Nepal resulted in increased numbers of internally displaced people, especially children separated from their families in both urban and rural areas. It is

estimated that there are 1,00,000-2,00,000 internally displaced people in Nepal. Children Win, a local child-support non-government organisation, estimates that 40,000 children have been displaced since 1996.

“Although the recent political change can pave the way for sustainable peace and

stability, the conflict that escalated during past years has put tremendous stress on protection mechanisms and exposed vulnerable populations, women and children in particular, to exploitation and abuse,” said Weber.

Social welfare programmes and services in Nepal have been harnessed but not optimised. Various researches and documentation also point to the need for legal measures and for setting minimum standards for child protection and other services.

To achieve its objectives, the project will work on central, district and municipality/village, and community levels. The project will target 4,000 conflict-affected and vulnerable families and their children by helping them develop their capacity to generate enough income to lift them out of poverty. The project will also hone the capacity of 100 professionals to develop, plan and deliver social services.

It will help government improve the quality of social services for the poor through ela-boration of legal regulations on quality standards and licensing, and helping enhance services like education and health care. Eventually, the project should be effective enough to convince the government to provide financing to sustain it beyond its four-year duration.