BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour promised Wednesday to step up government action to help children, and urged the adoption of harsher punishment for kidnappers in light of recent abductions targeting minors.
Abu Faour made the statement following a meeting of the Higher Council for Children, in which he appointed Rita Karam as secretary-general of the body, succeeding Elie Mikhayel.
“The phenomenon of kidnapping children is new, adding to that of businessmen and foreigners ... in order to blackmail families and governments.”
He noted that he would ask the Justice Ministry to set harsher penalties for the crimes, especially when kidnappers target children and minors.
Abu Faour said more coordination was needed between the Social Affairs and Health ministries and urged the Labor, Information, Interior and Justice ministries to coordinate with the two ministries as well in order to draft a comprehensive plan to protect children against exploitation and injustice.
He noted that the Higher Council for Children could be the perfect coordinating body since all ministries were represented in the institution.
He also said the council would not condone any breach of children’s rights and voiced hope of “improving the ways children are dealt with through certain measures and through spreading awareness with the media.”
Abu Faour said the council would discuss a number of practical steps to follow through on its objectives at a meeting next week and would exert “organized efforts” so the cause was given its fair share of media attention.
Abu Faour reiterated that the council was awaiting the case results from the Health Ministry about the death of a 22-month-old infant, Moemin al-Mohammad, to charge those responsible for neglecting him. The infant died at the doorstep of a Tripoli hospital last week after being denied treatment because of his parent’s inability to cover hospital expenses.
The minister said similar incidents could be avoided if hospitals knew they were being watched and are liable for not fulfilling their duties to patients who need help.
When asked about the case of a 12-year-old boy from Zahle who hanged himself Tuesday, the minister said, “There are difficult social conditions that can’t be fixed in the near future, and this is due mainly to ignorance.”