Published on 01:41 PM, March 29, 2022

Only 3,000 social workers to protect vulnerable children in Bangladesh: Unicef

Star file photo

Over 100,000 social workers are needed in Bangladesh to adequately respond to the needs of vulnerable children, but currently there are only 3,000 social workers in the country, Unicef has said.

"Professionally-trained social workers are at the core of every well-functioning child protection system that reaches every child in need of protection. We must recognize the importance of their work, and we must invest in them," said Sheldon Yett, Unicef representative to Bangladesh.

According to a press release of Unicef published today, violent disciplining, sexual abuse, child labour, child marriage and psychological punishment remain widespread in Bangladesh, putting millions of children at risk of harm every day.

To identify these children and to protect them from harm and abuse, a well-planned, trained and supported social service workforce is critical, it said.

Unicef mentioned that nine in ten children – accounting for 45 million boys and girls – below the age of 14 are subjected to violent disciplining in their homes regularly.

More than half of girls, 51 percent, are married off before reaching their 18th birthday. Millions of children are living on the street, are out of school or trapped in hazardous child labour.

Bangladesh government provides shelter for orphans and vulnerable children in Shishu Nibas and other centres, said Nuruzzaman Ahmed, minister for social welfare.

"Unicef has been providing their support to ensure the safety, security and rights of every child in the country. I hope social workers around the country will work for the betterment of the lives of common people," he added.

To promote the critical role of social workers in protecting children and women, UNICEF has joined hands with the Department of Social Services (DSS), under the Ministry of Social Welfare to launch a year-long campaign calling for greater investment in the social service workforce.

Already, dedicated social workers under the DSS, supported by Unicef and the European Union (EU), are protecting children in urban and rural communities.

These social workers reached over 200,000 children in 2021, providing them with psychosocial support, case management follow-up, and referral services. Since April 2020, they also facilitated the release of over 5,000 children from detention centres – known as Child Development Centres – and have supported these children to reunite with their families.

"Experienced and well-trained social workforces are key to enforcing the rights of children. The EU is keen to support building the capacity of the government officials, social workers, and other specialists working with and for children, through training and the development of child protection policies requirements. We should acknowledge the efforts of the social workers who are working in vulnerable communities to address child rights issues in Bangladesh," said Charles Whiteley, head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh.