Coinciding with the international Day of the Girl Child, The National Commission for Women and Children launched the "Child Helpline 1098" with funding from Save the Children member country Hong Kong. The Child Helpline is a national 24/7 free phone service for children in need of care and protection. It will be accessible to any child or adult on his/her behalf from any place at any given time. A team of trained operators and counsellors will be on call 24/7 to respond to cases of child abuse and violations by providing counselling and referral services, and legal information. The services provided will go beyond the provision of telephonic counselling, extending to emergency assistance and provision of long-term care and protection including referral services for rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration programs.
The Child Helpline is linked with the Central management information services (CMIS), which is a central database for information on woman and children in difficult circumstances and an online case management system where all relevant service providers collaborate to provide the services needed. The Child Helpline also has the provision to link up with the National Child helplines in the SAARC region.
The Southeast Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations have agreed on setting up a uniform Child helpline number 1098 in the region with the purpose of ensuring that all children are able to access support required in any of the eight countries, which would then link to the Helpline in the country of the origin of the child.
The main objective of the Child helpline:
- To establish a Helpline that will provide emergency outreach services to children in need of care and protection through a 24 hours emergency phone outreach services;
- A fully equipped toll-free National Child Helpline established and functional with a team of trained staff in place, responding 24x7 to all cases of reported abuse and violations;
- To provide a platform for networking amongst relevant organizations to link support programs which facilitate the rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration of children in need of care and protection
The Child Helpline project preliminary activities building up to the establishment of the Child Helpline was initiated in April 2017 with a pilot launch in July 2018. Mr. Ned Olney, Country Director, Bhutan and Nepal Save the Children Country Office graced the Official Launch of the Child Helpline on 11th October, 2018. The event was attended by dignitaries and officials from the Royal Government of Bhutan, Civil Society Organizations and Child Representatives from various school clubs.
Speaking about the Helpline, Country Director Ned Olney said, "The establishment of the Bhutan Tollfree Woman and Child Helpline is the latest addition to the long list of achievements made by Bhutan to protect the most vulnerable. The Helpline will provide children and caring adults with a 24hr free service to call to report any instances of women and child abuse or child rights violations at any time of the day or night – with the assurance that a caring counselor will be there on the other end of the line to activate an immediate response. Save the Children is pleased to have supported the Royal Government of Bhutan to advance the rights of children ".
The Child Helpline is expected to strengthen the provision of timely, efficient and effective protection services to children round the clock through counselling, legal information and instant facilitation and referrals to relevant authorities, agencies and organizations, and ensure quality care, support and appropriate services by trained and qualified personnel.