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Published On: Thu, Dec 11th, 2014

Insurgency: Decisive action needed to curb violence – New study

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By Ese Awhotu

As the incidence of violence continues unabated worldwide, especially in countries like Nigeria where the Boko Haram terrorist’s gang is still wrecking havoc.

The Global status report on violence prevention 2014 released yesterday reveals that 475 000 people were murdered in 2012 alone, and homicide is the third leading cause of death globally for males aged 15–44 years, highlighting the urgent need for more decisive action to prevent violence.

The report, said despite indications that homicide rates decreased by 16% globally between 2000 and 2012, violence remains widespread. “Non-fatal acts of violence take a particular toll on women and children. One in four children has been physically abused; one in five girls has been sexually abused; and one in three women have been a victim of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in her lifetime.” It added

Key findings of the report jointly published Wednesday by WHO, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the report indicates that: only one third of the 133 countries surveyed are implementing large-scale initiatives to prevent violence, such as bullying prevention programmes, visits by nurses to families at risk, and support to those who care for older people; just over half the countries are fully enforcing a set of 12 laws generally acknowledged to prevent violence, although 80% of countries have enacted them.

The report also found that only half of all countries have services in place to protect and support victims of violence.

“The consequences of violence on physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health often last a lifetime. Violence also contributes to leading causes of death such as cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS, because victims are at an increased risk of adopting behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and unsafe sex.

“The consequences of violence on families and communities are profound, and can result in lifelong ill health for those affected,” states Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Yet we know what works to prevent violence in our homes, schools and workplaces and on our streets and playgrounds. We should take inspiration from governments which have demonstrated success in reducing violence by taking the steps needed. They have shown us that indeed violence is preventable.”

The “Global status report on violence prevention 2014” is the first report of its kind to assess national efforts to address interpersonal violence, namely child maltreatment, youth violence, intimate partner and sexual violence, and elder abuse. Individual country profiles reflect the extent to which key violence prevention programmes and laws and selected services for victims of violence are being implemented.

The report assessed the scale of implementation of 18 “best buy” violence prevention programmes. It shows, for example, that: one half of countries are implementing school-based programmes to teach children and adolescents “life-skills” such as non-violent conflict resolution; one half of countries are promoting efforts to change gender norms supportive of violence against women.

The report further showed that one third of countries are putting in place programmes to improve parenting in families at risk of violence while less than one quarter of countries are developing public information campaigns to prevent elder abuse.

“High levels of family and community violence cripple both people’s ability to sustain their individual livelihoods, as well as a nation’s options for political, social, and economic development”, said Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. “This report takes stock of the measures countries are taking to prevent and respond to interpersonal violence, but the report also reveals gaps in global violence prevention which must be filled, such as the quality and reach of prevention programmes, the access to services for victims, particularly for women and girls who are disproportionately affected by violence, and the enforcement of existing laws.”

The report also reviewed 12 laws which are relevant for violence prevention. It shows, for example, that:98% of countries have laws against rape;87% of countries have laws against domestic violence;84% of countries have laws against carrying weapons in schools;40% of countries have laws against abuse in institutions for older people.

On average 80% of countries have enacted each of these 12 laws relevant for violence prevention. However, only just over half of countries report that these laws are fully enforced.

Laws protecting citizens against violent crime send a clear message to society about what is acceptable,” said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “With this Global status report on violence prevention 2014, we have a useful tool for identifying the gaps in legislation and enforcement in countries, which can help to indicate what further action, is needed to ensure reductions in violent crime.”

Providing care and support to victims of violence is important for reducing psychological trauma, helping victims heal, and preventing further involvement in violence. Despite strong evidence linking experiences of violence to mental health problems, under half of countries have mental health services to address victim needs, with only 15% of countries in Africa offering such services. Over two thirds of countries make available child protection services and medico-legal services for victims of sexual violence.

The report called for a scaling up of violence prevention programmes in all countries; stronger legislation and enforcement of laws relevant for violence prevention; strengthened justice and security institutions to uphold the rule of law; and enhanced services for victims of violence. It also advocates for better and more effective use of data to inform violence prevention programming and to measure progress. The report is intended for use by governments to help identify gaps and encourage and guide actions and by nongovernmental organizations and experts to assist governments in their efforts.

In Nigeria, experts and analysts say the report is of utmost significance in the fight against the Boko Haram, militancy in the Niger Delta, vandals, youth restiveness, rape and other forms of violence.

The figures from deaths through violence have reached alarming proportions that could plunge the country into a war. Several Nigerians including two former heads of state, Rtd General Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo have echoed this repeatedly in recent times.

In his comments on the report, Dr Etienne Krug, Director, Management of NCDs, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention said violence can affect anyone, suggesting that it is our collective responsibility to tackle violence.

According to him, “While working as a medical doctor in El Salvador, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Sudan, I saw first-hand the devastating impact of violence and its destruction on families and communities.

“Although war was raging in these countries at the time, many patients I treated in rural hospitals were children who were victims of abuse, women beaten by their partners, young boys injured in fights, or older people abandoned by their families. I also saw first-hand examples of the enormous impact such violence has on the health sector which devoted a significant amount of time and resources responding to its consequences.”

He said violence ripples well beyond physical harm. “It causes depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. It also contributes to cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS because victims of violence often try to cope with their traumatic experiences by adopting risky behaviours such as using tobacco, alcohol and drugs, as well as engaging in unsafe sex. In this regard too, violence can be a driver of early death and lifelong ill health.”


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