BENIN: Children's rights in the UN Special Procedures' reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.


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UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Olivier de Schutter
Country visit: 12 to 20 March 2009
Report published: 22 December 2009

Food insecurity: In terms of nutrition, women and children are the most affected groups. In 2006, 60 per cent of women aged 15–49 years were suffering from anaemia, and 10 per cent were underweight (body mass index of 18.5 or less). Under-nutrition and poor health in mothers take a toll on infants and young children. Thus, 78 per cent of young children (aged 6 months to 5 years) suffer from anaemia.3 Between 2001 and 2006, 23 per cent of young children were underweight, and the prevalence of growth retardation increased from 31 per cent of young children in 2001 to 38 per cent in 2006. The acute malnutrition rate was 4.7 per cent in 2005 (5.5 per cent for boys, and 3.9 per cent for girls). While some departments are more affected than others — Atacora, Plateau, Ouémé and Atlantique, for example — none has an acute malnutrition rate exceeding 10 per cent. However, more than 30 per cent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition in every department, with the exception of Littoral. Chronic malnutrition is more widespread among children in rural areas (40.4 per cent) than among their urban counterparts (29.9 per cent).4 In 2000, a national survey revealed that vitamin A deficiency affects the vast majority of children aged 12–71 months (73 per cent). (Paragraph 7)

There are also shortcomings with respect to feeding practices, notably affecting infants and young children (the average duration of breastfeeding declined from 22.3 months in 2001 to 21.4 months in 2006, and supplementary feeding practices are often inadequate). (Paragraph 8)

Pesticides: The potential risks of pursuing a “green revolution” based on the model of agricultural transformation followed by several Latin American countries in the 1950s and by several countries of South Asia in the 1960s must be given serious consideration. First, there is the question of the medium-term financial viability of the measures taken, an issue already raised in August 2008 by the mission of technical and financial partners, which found that the exit strategies of the current programmes needed to be clearer in this regard. In addition, this model runs the risk of accentuating the divide between the beneficiaries of agricultural transformation and those farm households that are excluded. The risk is all the greater when certain sectors are treated more favourably than others because of their ability to respond to the needs of the export market. Nor can the environmental risks be underestimated. They include contamination of fragile valley environments with pesticides and fertilisers, as has already occurred in certain cotton-growing valleys, and short-term reductions in fisheries productivity as a result of excessive use of chemical inputs. Lastly, pesticides are associated with short- and long-term risks to human health: accidental poisonings, headaches, rashes, birth defects, pregnancy complications and other illnesses are frequent in cotton-growing areas. (Paragraph 24)

It would be desirable if the adoption of a national strategy for the realisation of the right to food gave rise to a public debate on the reorientation of agriculture, taking account of all these dimensions — social, environmental and public-health — and exploring the alternatives available, for there are indeed alternatives. Benin could make still greater use of several agroecological farming techniques, systems and innovations, in order to capitalise on the natural assets of its ecosystems, rather than rely on the systematic use of costly foreign inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. These alternatives are currently being used on a small scale in Benin, although the experience of the Songhaï Centre in Porto-Novo, regarded as an authority throughout the West Africa region, has shown that it is possible to reach high levels of productivity per hectare using sustainable agriculture and agro- processing techniques that are integrated and in harmony with local practices. Other actors, including the faculty of agronomic sciences in Abomey-Calavi, the National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin (INRAB) and the Africa Rice Centre (ADRAO), also have very interesting experience in this area. (Paragraph 25)

Children's diets: These “ecologically intensive” alternatives receive too small a share of the funding available under the strategic plan for agricultural sector revitalisation. However, they not only have significant potential to improve agriculture in general but are also especially relevant when it comes to improving the situation of the most vulnerable areas and/or groups. By protecting the natural environment and creating systems that are more resistant to climatic shocks, they enhance the realisation of the right to food in the long term. Many systems have been recognised as meriting the greatest interest. The benefits of agroforestry for Benin have been demonstrated in several studies, including those undertaken by the Minister of Trade in her previous position. The cultivation of leguminous trees such as acacia mangium fertilises the soil and, at the same time, produces forage, as does the use of covering plants, such as mucuna (“magic beans”). Planting fruit trees as part of valley development enables children’s diets to be improved by means of the vitamins in the fruit. The promotion of composting — a difficult technique, but one that yields significant results — allows the soil to be fertilised without resorting to the purchase of costly artificial fertilisers. The development of animal traction in the South would reduce the hardships of agricultural work by using techniques that are accessible to small farmers and could be achieved by disseminating breeds of cattle that are resistant to sleeping sickness (Lagoon and Borgou breeds) and providing veterinary care. Soil conservation projects, such as the anti-erosion measures in Atacora or the systems that could be inspired by the encouraging results of the soil development programme being implemented in Burkina Faso, have an important role to play too. The distribution of the best traditional seed varieties through the networks established pursuant to the emergency food security support project would also be very useful, as some of these varieties are well suited to the culinary practices and customs of local populations. Lastly, integrated control techniques allow farming to be less polluting (see the reduction in the number of pesticide applications achieved under the targeted phased control project in cotton growing, piloted over 30,000 to 40,000 hectares in Borgo- Alibora region). There are strong synergies between all these agroecological techniques: for example, the forage produced from leguminous trees enhances the prospects for developing animal traction. This is another argument for making such approaches a more integral part of programmes that receive support from the Government and the international community . (Paragraph 26)

Benefits for vulnerable children: Benin has established a system of benefits for the most vulnerable groups. Decree No. 2006-228 regulating the organisation of relief by the Ministry of the Family, Women and Children provides that persons who are living in extreme poverty, lack vital resources or are experiencing social and/or economic difficulties have the right to receive State assistance in the form of non-reimbursable benefits in cash or in kind (arts. 1 and 3). Abandoned and orphaned children, children with disabilities and children from deprived families are the subjects of special attention, as are detained juveniles (art. 5). The benefits may be provided immediately in emergencies, on a temporary basis in case of short-term need, or over a longer period not, however, exceeding three years. Special bodies have been set up to implement the system at national, departmental and commune level.19

The right to social benefits cannot be realised effectively unless the potential recipients are adequately informed as to their entitlements under the law, and unless remedies are available for persons who are arbitrarily excluded from receiving benefits. The risk of exclusion is particularly serious in the case of persons who are illiterate or have no legal residence and households living far from urban centres, for whom geographical distance can represent a major obstacle to fulfilling the required administrative procedures. The Government of Benin could undertake an assessment of the difficulties these categories encounter in accessing social benefits and consider ways of overcoming them. (Paragraphs 56 and 57)


UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty
Country visit: 29 July to 5 August 2001
Report published: 15 March 2002

Report not available in English.



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