Qatar now has one of the region’s most comprehensive child protection systems – and Sidra Medicine is contributing to its effectiveness
With all the benefits we now enjoy in society, it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile this with the less savoury aspects of human behaviour that inhabit the dark corners of modern life. But today, it is estimated that more children are at risk from violence and abuse than at any time in history.
Every country has its own problems and issues. Life and personal circumstances can cause psychological stress or mental illnesses.
Escalating populations, poverty, and corruption are symptoms, but the perpetuators are all too human. “Every country has its own problems and issues,” explains Professor Khalid Al-Ansari, who chairs the Emergency Medicine Department at Sidra Medicine, a member of Qatar Foundation, and founded the Sidra Child Advocacy Program (SCAP) Center. “Life and personal circumstances can cause psychological stress or mental illnesses. Bad decisions are made, and these can lead to child abuse cases.”
Research has shown there are some people who are more prone to be a threat to children. Individuals who were abused themselves as children, people who suffer from drug or alcohol dependency issues. Single parents struggling to provide for their children emotionally and financially face unimaginable challenges everyday as do parents of children with special needs.
The need for comprehensive protocols that are robust, but flexible, enough to address the wide variety of conditions that lead to children becoming at-risk is paramount, so it is comforting to know that Qatar now has one of the most comprehensive child protection systems in the region, if not the world.
This coordinated, aligned, and appropriate approach to identifying, assessing and protecting children who are, or who might be, at risk has been developed – with the involvement of all the relevant agencies, governmental resources and healthcare entities within the country – to ensure the welfare of vulnerable children in Qatar. It is enhancing knowledge, processes, policies, and procedures, raising awareness of issues surrounding child abuse, and ensuring all parties work in tandem rather than isolation.
Across primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare workers, groups with the necessary knowledge and skills have been identified and given specialist education and training that enables them to address the effects of child abuse. This includes building sensitivity to the nuances of cultural differences within Qatar’s multi-ethnic population. And because what we would categorize as child abuse in Qatar might not necessarily be considered child abuse in in other countries , it is important that any strategies and training incorporate elements of rehabilitation and education.
Our goal should be to identify those people suffering and help them, before they can harm anyone else. Prevention is always better than cure.
As Professor Al-Ansari says, “We recognize that mental health issues that have been allowed to fester and escalate are the primary cause of abuse today, and they didn’t just start yesterday. Our goal should be to identify those people suffering and help them, before they can harm anyone else. Prevention is always better than cure.”
Leveraging the opportunities presented by the country-wide electronic Clinical Information System (CIS) that covers more than 90 percent of the country’s population of 2.3 million people, the Sidra Child Advocacy Program (SCAP) ensures that any at-risk child can be immediately identified, assessed, and supported by a system that guarantees anonymity for patients and care-givers.
The comprehensive protocols that are in place mean that no matter what interaction is needed or medical presentation, abused children will immediately be given the care they need to alleviate their immediate pain and the protection they require to eradicate the causes in their future.
From a 24/7 hotline staffed by experienced medical professionals, to a flag system built into CIS; from forensic interviewing workshops that upskill staff and the confidentiality guarantees established within the information management systems, to greater awareness of key issues and the building of expertise to address them, Qatar is now equipped to deal with the issues of at-risk children as part of a national child well-being strategy.