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Overview of the operation of the SOS helpline for children and youth in 2021

The year of 2021 was a year in which SOS helpline was ringing quite often. This annual report notes the small number of children who contacted us during this year, therefore it is necessary to work on encouraging children and young people to call in order to be informed or to report violations of their rights.

We continued to work in a pandemic situation by diverting calls and avoiding any interruption in the provision of our services.  

The number one issue in the problems category was the reporting of views of children of divorced parents and non-compliance to the resolution issued by the Center for Social Work. The data shows that the violation of the rights of the child during divorce procedure is one of the biggest problems children and their families face. This points out to the fact that better and more quality regulation of the family relations is needed, including better attention and support by the relevant institutions in order to prevent additional violations of children rights. There are also issues related to awarding of custodianship and payment of alimony. In addition to the right of the child to continue seeing one of the parents, we have also reports about violated children rights for seeing people from the wider family (grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousins…).

Violence continues to remain a reality for the children in Macedonia. The data from the report show that many children are at risk of violence, which affects their optimal psycho-physical development. Corporal punishment still dominates as a way of raising children, unaware of the psychological consequences it leaves on the children for life.

Seemingly invisible to other forms of violence, emotional violence also occurs very often and is just as dangerous as any other form of violence. The spectrum of emotional abuse is wide, and this happens when the child is not taken care of, not encouraged to develop, when it is neglected, rejected, ignored, coerced, punished, prevented from connecting with other people around him/ her... Emotional abuse is also a situation when a child witnesses physical or other violence. This annual report also includes sexual abuse of children.

The life prospects of the children in Macedonia are affected by their exposure to poverty.  Many children live with their families barely being able to sustain themselves and with serious endangering of the children rights. When we talk about essential needs we are talking about exposure to inadequate living conditions that hinder the optimal growth and development of children. Poverty also harms children through the negative impact on their families as the parents are not paying enough attention to their children since they are forced to work several jobs, hence the children are often pushed into begging and the likelihood of falling a victim to the most severe forms of abuse is increasing.

Maintaining mental health is equally important for both adults and children. Divorce proceedings and disagreements between the parents of the children are the most common cause of child anxiety and fear. Anxiety in children can also occur as a result of major changes in their lives, such as moving to a new home, living with only one parent, changing schools and so on.