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18 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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‘Silent calls’ to Child Helpline a cause of concern

Md Habibulla, Dhaka
‘Silent calls’ to Child Helpline a cause of concern

Among the 2.55 lakh calls received by Child Helpline (1098) in the last couple of years, 20,000 were ‘silent’ calls, where only background sounds were audible while callers remained silent for a few minutes, indicating a muted cry for help. “Such calls are being taken very seriously by those manning 1098,” Bangladesh Child Helpline manager Chowdhury Md Mohaimen told The Independent.

"In case of such calls, those manning the helpline have instructions to generate confidence in the callers to speak or share details,” he said. Silent callers are likely to be a troubled child or even an adult in distress. “A child rarely speaks in the first session and the counsellor speaks to him/her to build trust and draw out children. A silent caller is likely to be in such a situation. The aim is to build trust with him or her,” he added.

Interestingly, calls seeking emotional support and help due to stressful family situations, such as separation of parents, dysfunctional homes and child abuse, are also rising and often relate to more affluent homes. From the calls it received, Child Helpline has resolved about 30,000 cases until now. This may seem small compared to the number of calls, but the number reflects a significant number of children who needed help.

At least 1,148 out of these 24,000 cases were in the category of ‘protection from abuse’. As many as 11,200 calls provided legal support in different cases. The helpline rescued 1,635 cases from child marriage and 3,188 problems relating to education. Besides, necessary information by the helpline was given to a total of 139,944 callers during last two years.

All calls are classified in 14 categories, including blank, crank and abusive. It is the data on silent calls category that holds the possibility of a child or an adult still trying to make up his/her mind about speaking up and asking for help.   

Data shows 61 per cent of such callers are boys and 39 per cent are girls. The caller’s age ratio shows that children aged 10–14 years called more than 50,000 times, those aged 15-18 years called more than 40,000 times and those above 18 years called around 30,000 times.

Calls for rescue, shelter, missing cases and medical help for children are largely put under the category of ‘emotional support and counselling’.  Over the last two years, more than 3,990 calls were handled by the helpline where the callers were given emotional support, guidance and counselling.

Many callers were children or their adult well-wishers from middle-class and upper middle-class families. They were struggling with problems due to dysfunctional homes and situations like divorce of parents or sexual harassment.

According to the Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) report in 2018, violence against children has shot up by 18.75 per cent in Bangladesh. A total of 4,566 children were subjected to different types of violence like abuse, suicide, kidnapping, rape and murder in 2018. Analysing media reports, the BSAF found that 57 types of violent acts had been committed against children in 2018.

Narayan Halder Khokan, an official of Child Helpline, said: “After listening to their (children’s) problems, we usually contact with social activists, social welfare officials or Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) to resolve the problems.” “We often get calls from children or adults that are shocking. On receiving information, we take steps to resolve the problems,” he also said.

“The phone calls are increasing gradually. Children now know where to go if they face such troubling incidents. As much as 80 per cent cases have been solved after discussion with the authorities concerned,” he added.

In October 2016, the helpline was established under the Ministry of Social Welfare, with financial and technical assistance from UNICEF, to reach out to children in trouble.

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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