Greatly concerned about the ongoing epidemic of violence against children, UNICEF is urging the country and its international development partners to put more investment in efforts that focus on violence prevention.
According to reports by the Ministry of National Security’s Jamaica Crime Observatory (JCO), during the period 2011-2015, males aged 11-17 were more likely than females to be murdered, robbed or shot. Females in the same age group were more at risk of being sexually assaulted.
Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) statistics for 2014 indicate that 44 children were murdered during that year, 138 were the victims of shootings and aggravated assault, and 447 girls were victims of rape.
In order to address the root causes of the violence affecting the country, including children and their families, there is an urgent need for more community-based interventions designed to prevent and stem violence.
As an example, UNICEF points to the success of the Violence Interruption Programme, being implemented by the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and the Ministry of National Security – in response to concerns about the country’s high homicide rates.
UNICEF has supported the roll-out of the Violence Interruption Programme in three of the island’s fourteen parishes in communities that contributed disproportionately to shooting and homicide events at the national and parish levels.
In 2015, the Violence Interruption Programme, working along with other stakeholders, helped to reduce murders by 7% and 4% in St. James and St. Catherine, two of the country’s high crime parishes.
The programme, modeled on the approach of the USA-based “Cure Violence” programme, treats violence as a public health issue.
Over 60 trained Violence Interrupters, who are highly-respected community residents, identify and detect potentially violent situations and the persons likely to get involved in conflict.
They also interrupt potential violence by mediating conflicts and preventing retaliation, and make continuous efforts to influence the behaviour of persons who are most likely to get involved in shootings or murders.
UNICEF is calling on the government and other international development partners to consider making greater investments to expand the Violence Interruption programme, and to support similar community-based prevention efforts.
UNICEF, in partnership with the Government of Jamaica, starts a new five-year country programme of cooperation in January 2017. During this period, UNICEF will put heavy emphasis on supporting and advocating for programmes, policies and laws that seek to improve safety and justice for children, with a greater focus on violence prevention.