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Dr Lucie Cluver of Oxford University's Department of Social Policy and Intervention works with the WHO and UNICEF among others to develop and test free, evidence-based child abuse prevention programmes for use in low-resource contexts.

Image credit: Lucy Cluver

Child abuse (physical, emotional and sexual) affects an estimated 95 million children annually. It causes severe negative outcomes including HIV-infection, psychological distress, unemployment, future risk of violence and even death. Developing countries have more child abuse, and less than 10% of abused children receive any services at all. Since 2012, Oxford University has led a collaborative project, directed by Lucie Cluver, Professor of Child and Family Social Work in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, for child abuse prevention in low and middle income countries, with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the South African Government, and NGO partners Clowns Without Borders South Africa, and academic partners such as the University of Cape Town. Together, these partners have committed to developing and testing free, evidence-based child abuse prevention programmes for low-resource contexts.

The programme for adolescents and their families has been tested in rural and urban South Africa, with strong initial results. So far, 1500 participants have tried the programme, and shown reduced violence, adolescent delinquency, and improved parent and teen mental health. In the past year, there has been substantive interest from international agencies and national governments. There are currently plans to scale up the Sinovuyo Teen programme into 13 countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Palestine and Israel, South Africa and Tanzania. Agencies include USAID, Catholic Relief Services, the South African and Tanzanian National governments and UNICEF.

From 2014-2015, funding from Oxford’s ESRC IAA supported a Knowledge Exchange Officer for the project who was able to support the early stages of partnership between UNICEF and the World Health Organisation and development of relationships with new partners. This provided an invaluable resource to the research team, and established a set of strong collaborative partnerships. With these partners, the Oxford research team is working towards preventing abuse for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Read about Lucie's follow-up IAA project here

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