President Waqa’s comments highlight need to get #KidsOffNauru

Spotlight is on Nauru ahead of the Pacific Island Forum this week and escalating reports about the critical medical condition of children.

A new report by the Refugee Council of Australia and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre details incidents of trauma and the appalling conditions that people must live through every day. They report that depression, anxiety, short-term memory loss, bedwetting, nightmares, and anti-social behaviours are widespread, and treated mostly through sedation.

Children have attempted to swallow razor blades and self-immolate, and the Guardian reports that there are at least 20 children who are on “food and fluid refusal” at present, placing them at risk of permanent harm or death.

President of Nauru, Baron Waqa, attempted to deflect from the situation this week, saying that refugee advocates and and parents have been ‘pushing’ children to self-harm.

Principal Solicitor for the National Justice Project, George Newhouse, rebutted these comments in a statement to the ABC, saying: “the President of Nauru was not qualified to make medical assessments and that his approach to children with diagnosed illnesses was putting their lives at risk”.

While the work of the National Justice Project and other legal partners has helped to transfer 25 children to Australia for medical care, as of 29 August 2018 there are still an estimated 109 children held on Nauru.

Professor Louise Newman of Doctors for Justice said that “to dismiss the serious nature of mental illness in children is dangerous as well as morally unconscionable.”

“Children are at the end of their capacity to withstand the trauma of this situation,” Dr Newman said. 

What is needed is an urgent response to this unsustainable situation and an immediate amnesty for children and families to access appropriate medical and psychiatric treatment.”

Join us, and hundreds of other organisations, in calling to get #KidsOffNauru before Universal Children’s Day on 20 November.