UNODC and Don Bosco Unite to Brighten the Future of Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

As part of its work to promote Justice for Children, and in consultation with the Child Justice Office of the Federal Supreme Court and Addis Ababa Rehabilitation Centre, UNODC in partnership with Don Bosco launched the initiative on "Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services for the Children in Conflict with the Law" in Ethiopia on 19 November 2015.  This directly responds to a big social and economic issue in Ethiopia: the reintegration of vulnerable children.

Some children in the detention centre may end up staying for as long as five years. Those on the streets can commit minor crimes with the intention of being taken into detention in order to have their basic needs met. There are no effective early-release programs and no aftercare support. Supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable children is a priority even if, in the long term, the development of community-based alternatives should be prioritised over institutional responses.

UNODC's Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Mr. Jose Vila del Castillo made a call to the stakeholders in the area of Justice for Children to create a working group that will work together in monitoring the progress of the initiative. "We need to help the Ethiopian Government to prevent children from ending up abandoned on the streets and assist those who are already in the streets or in detention to rebuild their lives, and it is for this reason that greater coordination between the authorities and civil society organizations will be pivotal", said Mr. Del Castillo.

The Executive Director of the Rehabilitation Centre, Mr. Andualem Tafesse, thanked UNODC for its continued support to the centre. "I thank UNODC for helping us, especially for the basic equipment it provided to the Centre. We are also working together to develop a database for the Centre", said Mr. Tafesse.

Ethiopia's only Rehabilitation Centre for children in conflict with the law is located in Addis Ababa and houses approximately 75 boys and 15 girls sentenced or on remand. Children are aged between nine and 15, and fall under the responsibility of the Addis Ababa Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. As of November 2014, there were approximately 30 sentenced children at the Rehabilitation Centre. Budget provisions are not always sufficient for purchasing enough food, education material is rare, and there are limited means for providing the children with useful vocational training. Staff are limited in number and not always adequately trained.

This is according to an assessment conducted jointly by UNODC, the Child Justice Office of the Federal Supreme Court, and the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. The assessment made concrete recommendations for improving the Rehabilitation Centre: certain material items were urgently needed, and rehabilitation and reintegration services were identified.

In addition to those children in the Rehabilitation Centre, there are many children at risk and children in contact with the law in Addis Ababa and throughout Ethiopia, most of whom are street children. There are estimates of up to 100,000 street children in Addis Ababa alone.

The initiative intends to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services to street children and other children at the rehabilitation centre.

The launch was attended by representatives from the Supreme Court of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa Rehabilitation Centre, the International Community, UNODC and Don Bosco.

The initiative is supported by the Governments of Netherlands and Sweden.