The Prevention of Violence Against Children: A Global Effort


November 19th is the International Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Learn more about how CDC is protecting the futures of children all around the world with the Violence Against Children Survey.

On September 25th, the United Nations released a comprehensive list of Sustainable Development Goals designed to improve global inequalities by 2030. These goals, ranging from improvements in economic growth and clean energy to ending world hunger, require that all people from all parts of the world join together for the common good of humanity. They ask that we recognize each of the goals as imperative to the well-being of future generations, which is a timely reminder as we approach the International Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse on November 19th.

To advance the United Nations call-to-action, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collaborated with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other key members of the Together for Girls public-private partnership to provide technical assistance to host country governments in the implementation of national Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS).

Children who experience violence are at a greater risk for long-lasting consequences, including, but not limited to:

  • Infectious diseases such as HIV
  • Chronic diseases
  • Reproductive health problems
  • Crime and drug abuse
  • Social and developmental difficulties
  • Serious mental health problems

More than 1 billion children—half of all the children in the world—are victims of violence every year.

These consequences are costly, pervasive, and preventable. CDC's Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) seek to understand the breadth of the problem of violence against children, which enables countries to better allocate limited resources to prevention programs. VACS are unique, national household surveys that measure physical, emotional, and sexual violence against children in order to inspire action and save lives. VACS data have been released in eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, with growing demand for VACS implementation in Central America, Eastern Europe, and West Africa. The VACS findings show an urgent need for violence prevention measures.

VACS data released earlier this year focused on lifetime childhood sexual violence (before age 18 years) among females and males aged 18-24 in seven countries (Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Haiti, and Cambodia) between 2007 and 2013. The data showed that:

  • At least 1 in 4 females and 1 in 10 males have experienced some form of childhood sexual violence in the majority of countries surveyed.
  • Among victims of childhood sexual violence, few received healthcare, legal/security aid, or counseling support.

Further, HIV is an epidemic in many of the VACS countries. Sadly, the VACS data show that most children who have experienced sexual abuse have never been tested for HIV. Adding HIV testing to the VACS will allow HIV positive children to receive life-saving care, treatment, and support.

The most recent VACS data[16.7 MB] were released in Nigeria on September 15th. This data release was accompanied by a year-long action plan dedicated to reducing violence against children. The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, showed his full support by saying, "This is a historic day. A day when Nigeria stands up and says to our children—we commit to protecting you from violence." The United Nations Secretary General commended Nigeria for being the first country in West Africa to complete the survey.


The VACS data draw attention to the tragic realities of violence against children, but the story doesn't end there. As an offered solution linking VACS data to sustainable action, CDC has published a technical package of core prevention strategies called THRIVES. THRIVES strategies cross health, social services, education finance, and justice sectors to provide the best available evidence to prevent violence against children:

  • Training in parenting,
  • Household economic strengthening,
  • Reduced violence through protective policies,
  • Improved services,
  • Values and norms that protect children,
  • Education and life skills, and
  • Surveillance and evaluation.

THRIVES will require coordination and cooperation from everyone. The International Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse provides a time for people all over the world to join together to advance the call-to-action proposed in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals—to end all forms of violence against children.

CDC's Division of Violence Prevention works to prevent violence and its adverse health consequences. For more information about the Violence Against Children Survey, please visit Towards a Violence-Free Generation.

For more information on THRIVES, visit VACS Reports and Publications.