Disease, death stalking children in northeast camps: child rights commission

September 11th, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 11 (IANS) Children forced to undergo mandatory HIV testing and shunned when found positive for the AIDS virus, some not issued birth certificates and denied nutrition and education, around 40 kids dying due to dysentery and malnutrition - these are some of the shocking facts uncovered by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights during its visit to a few camps in the northeast.Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the child rights commission, presented her findings here Thursday after an eight-day visit to camps in Assam, Manipur and Tripura.

Addressing media persons, Sinha said the rights body came to know of children living in a relief camp in Manipur being forced to undergo HIV testing and shunned when found with the virus. This led them to become child labourers to insurgency as child soldiers or being trafficked.

Sinha, who led a five-member delegation, said they were shocked when they heard that children are forced to undergo mandatory HIV testing and the status of the child is not kept a secret. Instead the children face discrimination when found to be positive.

“The children don’t get any formal education and so end up becoming either child labourers or are trafficked or become child soldiers as they are vulnerable to exploitation by insurgents,” Sinha said.

She said the children, who are being given anti-retroviral treatment, do not get any nutritional support or psycho-social services.

“We have asked the states to ensure non-mandatory testing and follow protocol for testing based on medical assessment. It should be ensured that these tests are governed by confidentiality. The state should also ensure that the tests are conducted to provide treatment rather than for the purpose of exclusion and discrimination,” she added.

She said they learnt about the mandatory HIV testing during a public hearing in Imphal.

She said that in a camp in Tripura, children were not issued birth certificates by the authorities, and their health and education ignored, in gross violation of their fundamental rights.

Sinha said they were appalled when they saw how the children, belonging to the tribal Bru community in the Narasinghpara camp in Tripura, were living.

“We noted that birth certificates were not issued within the camp. This is a fundamental denial of the children’s basic rights to citizenship and access to all entitlements,” Sinha said.

“In the same camp, we were told by the people that 39 children had died since January last year to Aug 31 this year due to dysentery and malnutrition. There are 14 recorded maternal deaths in the same period,” said Sinha, who returned Wednesday night from her visit to the three states.

Thousands of adults and children belonging to the Bru community had come to Tripura from Mizoram due to the ethnic conflict in 1997. They were not being included in ration card lists, families were facing critical food shortage and the nutritional and health situation was deteriorating, Sinha said.

She said approximately 35,000 Brus were displaced and were living in “sub human” condition in six relief camps in the Kanchanpur district in North Tripura.

“The high rate of child and maternal morbidity and mortality is due to the lack of access to primary health care and sub centre facilities. There are no toilet facilities, no safe drinking water and no facilities for children to study,” Sinha said.

In Assam, the team visited six relief camps of Santhali and Bengali Muslims and found similar complains of lack of access to education, health and nutrition.

“There are also instances of girl child trafficking. The girls had gone to work in Bhutan and also came as far as Delhi to work as sex workers and domestic helps,” she added.

Sinha said they have given a list of recommendations to the three state governments and hoped to see the results.

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