Minister of Youth, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, in discussion with Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Violet Speek-Warnery (left), Chairman of the National Committee for Monitoring the Rights of the Child, Hulbert Blackett,??and Permanent Secretary, Irvine Best, in discussion after the re-launch of the Committee.??

A Government Minister is concerned about emerging issues relating to children???s rights to health care and education in Barbados.

Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo made this known while addressing the re-launch of the National Committee for Monitoring the Rights of the Child today at the Ministry of Education. She noted that there were children here whose immigration papers were not in order and, as a result, they could not attend school, nor could they be afforded adequate health care.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said: ???The safest place for the children is for them to be in school??? and they need to have [access to] immunisation. If we do not immunise the children of illegal immigrants, who are here, we as a population may suffer, because it is when everybody is covered against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and ailments like that, that we can say that our population is covered.

???We cannot cover a certain sector of our population and neglect others and expect those circumstances would not affect all of us. So, the right to health care and the right to education are issues that I am concerned about??? We have to continue our vigilance against all forms of abuse ??? sexual, physical, neglect and emotional,??? she observed.

Dr. Byer Suckoo told the small group that she would be meeting shortly with the Attorney General and the Family Law Council to discuss a draft document which looked at the legislation pertaining to children. She expressed the view that work needed to be done to the current legislation and she was hopeful that some of the amendments could reach Parliament later in the year.

???The legislation needs to be harmonised??? and this Committee [for Monitoring the Rights of the Child] has to look at harmonising all the pieces of legislation and address some of the discrepancies,??? she stated.??????

The local Committee, which monitors the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, has been in existence since 1998. The Minister described it as an important body, adding that there were a lot of issues that needed attention now and she was looking forward to its ???strategic intervention???.

???I am looking forward to the Committee advising on policy, making recommendations aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children and reviewing and updating the National Plan of Action. There was one prepared in 1992 that needs to be reviewed, implemented and harmonised with other plans we are developing in the Ministry, including policies for youth and family,??? she added.



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