Internationally renowned singer Angélique Kidjo has lauded the efforts of a facility in Mexico City supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that provides medical, psychological and legal assistance to children who have suffered violence.
Ms. Kidjo, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who was in Mexico for a concert yesterday, visited the Integrated Child Protection System, known by its Spanish acronym “SAPII,” which operates in the Iztapalapa neighbourhood and has provided care to almost 600 children.
“When you are six or 16, and you have been beaten or sexually abused, your life is in shatters,” said the Benin-born singer. “Then, what you most need is to avoid going through the trauma repeatedly in visits to various doctors, psychologists, police and prosecutors in different distant places.
“To give children the best possible care in these circumstances, SAPII’s specialized and integrated attention at the first point of contact is exactly what you want,” said Ms. Kidjo.
Iztapalapa is one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the Mexican capital, with a population of nearly two million, of whom half a million are children. According to UNICEF, almost half of its residents live in poverty, and it is the area with the highest reported incidence of domestic violence.
UNICEF and its partners, working closely with Government institutions, have helped the facility through advocacy and technical support, as well as by proposing and developing policies and programmes to assist children and adolescents who suffered violence.
The facility essentially provides a “one-stop shop” where children can receive medical attention and psychological support, and can be interviewed by the prosecutors handling their cases. Assistance is designed in a way that uses innovative and sensitive techniques for taking legal testimonies from children, and seeks to prevent family separation where possible.
“This is an innovative approach, to respond to cases of violence against children in an integrated manner. The initial dedication of individual doctors, social workers and prosecutors is now an official system,” said Susana Sottoli, UNICEF’s country representative.
“But we see this as just the beginning,” she added. “In support of the federal and the state institutions, we are working to promote the model across the city and the country – so that we can alleviate suffering not for hundreds of children, but for tens of thousands who have suffered different forms of violence at home, at school, or in the streets.”