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Children in distress call 147

Pro Juventute united Switzerland's child helplines in 1999 under a single number, 147, to ensure better protection for children in need.

SOS-Enfants in Geneva is one of the centres that mans the helpline, receiving around 3,500 calls a year.

Nine regional centres monitor the 147 number, including SOS-Enfants. The single three-digit code provides anonymous access to specialists for children and teenagers.

Youngsters have put the helpline number to good use. "Since we have been connected nationwide, the number of calls has tripled," said Tatiana Laghzaoui, a psychologist who works for SOS-Enfants.

A quarter of all calls - which also come from parents - concern family problems.

"Our role isn't to resolve conflicts," Laghzaoui told swissinfo, "but to talk with the children and their parents and help them find common ground."

Laws not followed

Violence, either physical or sexual, lies at the root of 15 per cent of the calls - a figure confirmed by the authorities and official statistics.

"We think the number of cases of abuse is actually much higher," said the psychologist.

According to Laghzaoui, finding solutions when this happens is difficult, despite strong laws protecting children.

"It's the application of these laws that is problematic," she said.

Quite often, a child will complain of abuse to a variety of services and professionals such as teachers, social workers and psychologists.

But according to SOS-Enfants, the coordination between different services is far from perfect, and children are left to face their problems on their own.

swissinfo/Isabelle Eichenberger


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