The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) has called for the strengthening of the capacity of the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development for effective implementation of child protection and family welfare policies and programmes.
That, the NDPC said, would ensure that the knowledge of stakeholders, including traditional authorities was upgraded to adopt policies to address child abuse and trafficking, streetism, child online protection and conditions inimical to the holistic development of the Ghanaian child.
The recommendation followed a mid-term evaluation of the 2018-2021 Medium Term Development Policy Framework which identified increased child labour cases, especially at the border towns in Ghana, and student absenteeism during rice harvest and cocoa season in farming communities.
The evaluation report also noted that children between the ages of 13 and 14 years engaged in varied economic activities, including fishing at the expense of going to school in many communities across the country.
The NDPC, in an evaluation of the framework, identified that even though the free SHS, capitation grant and the School Feeding Programme had contributed to increased school enrolments, children of school-going age continued to engage in hazardous activities.
These include the collection of scraps at landfill sites, operating unlicensed tricycles and betting, which are detrimental to their education and health.
The mid-term evaluation report on the Medium-Term National Development Policy Framework for 2018-2021 was titled “An Agenda for Jobs, 2018-2021.”
It was to validate the policy objectives and strategies as contained in the framework and to incorporate the gaps in implementation into the 2022-2025 Medium Term Development Policy Framework.
Nana Opare-Djan, Deputy Director at NDPC, who shared the report at a Regional consultation forum on the Medium Term Development Policy Framework (2022-2025) in Koforidua, indicated that the evaluation focused on six main areas.
These included Child Protection, Water and Sanitation, Education, Health, Nutrition and Job Creation in eight Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in Ghana.
He said the evaluation showed that the 2018-2021 policy framework largely addressed the local needs of the people and that there were improvements in all the indicators.
However, he said MMDAs must scale up to implement integrated social programmes for children, families and vulnerable adults to improve their access to such critical services.
Nana Opare-Djan indicated that despite the improvements by government machinery to address child protection issues, child abuse and trafficking and child labour leading to school absenteeism cases were still on the rise, with higher prevalence in the rural areas and called on the MMDAs to scale up their efforts.
On Nutrition, the evaluation noted that the quality of free meals served under the government’s school feeding programme did not meet the nutritional needs of school children.
It said recorded cases of food poisoning in some schools showed foods were not prepared under hygienic conditions.
The evaluation report noted that some school children were excluded from the programme while the coastal areas recorded cases of a high incidence of malnourishment.
It called for collaboration with the agriculture sector to scale up health and nutrition education in such areas.
On Health, the report noted that the dilapidated state of Community Health and Planning Services (CHPS) compounds and the inadequate healthcare equipment and logistics were a challenge to accessing healthcare for people in the rural areas and called for concerted efforts to address the situation.
Participants, including Coordinators and Planning Officers of MMDAs, Civil Society Groups, Traditional Authorities and the Media, among others were taken through the draft 2022-2025 Medium Term development Policy matrix to solicit their inputs into the final document for full participation and ownership of the policy framework.