Child Protection: Still a Long Way to Go

A child sitting in​ a scrap cart. Photo: Sharron Lovell / UNICEF

Among the torrent of horrors one can read about every day, some are more shocking than others, such as this one: On Jan. 14, a grandmother killed her 8-year-old grandson because, being extremely poor, she could no longer feed him. This drama took place in Kampong Speu province, and the killer has owned up to the crime, explaining it that way, reported the media based on information provided by the police.

In journalese, this information could be handled as news in brief like road accidents, robberies, sordid crimes or crimes of passion. I would rather put ii in the category of social-issue stories since this sheds light on a behavioral pattern, dysfunction or even a flaw in the way we live together.

Provided that the results of the police investigation are confirmed by the authorities, the assassination of this child first reminds us that, even though poverty has remarkably been reduced in the country over the last few years, situations of extreme precarious conditions persist. This is not only in Cambodia and can also be seen in developed countries.

But I ask myself: No matter how destitute this woman was, how could she reach the point of taking this extreme step of premeditating and committing this crime? A moment of madness? Maybe.  

But if she had all her sanity, why did she not turn toward the local authorities to put forward all the extreme difficulties she was facing to raise her grandson? Was she so isolated, alone, to the point of having no one with whom to speak of her pain?

Wasn’t there anyone who might have realized that the child was in danger due to poverty and who could have reported that situation to the authorities?

Some people might argue that this woman was responsible for the poverty in which she was finding herself.

But no one would be able to make the case that the child was.

He should have been rescued. He was not. Society failed and we should ensure that the tragic destiny of this 8-year-old boy forms the basis for reflection and action in favor of child protection.

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