A LOT of children in Fiji are facing social problems that are affecting their growth from an early age.
This was revealed to this newspaper by one of New Zealand's renowned adolescent psychiatrist and child consultant Doctor Muhammad Arshad.
Dr Arshad who was in Fiji last week to assist the Ministry of Health in identifying children who needed assistance in psychiatric care said he was shocked to see what children in Fiji were going through.
He said he had examined about 200 children in Fiji between the ages of six to 20 and found out that a lot them had been abused.
"The rights of children in this country are not respected. Children are abused and are subject to violence," Dr Arshad said.
He said he had noted that some parents in the country did not fulfil the needs of their children but shouldered them with huge responsibilities at a tender age.
"Parents should spend quality time with their children. They should listen to children and do not pressure them to do things," Dr Arshad said.
He said in Fiji, there were a lot of parents who were seeking divorce, separated and some often fought in front of their children.
"These are the things that affect the growth of a child. At the age of six, their minds are developing and adapt to changes they often see," Dr Arshad said.
He said most children examined also revealed that they were verbally abused.
"These sorts of abuses leave a stigma, which affects the mentality of children when they grow into adults."
Dr Arshad said majority of the children in Fiji were not given happiness but shouldered responsibility when they were six to seven years of age.
"The age to shoulder responsibilities start at 14 years and onwards," he said.
Dr Arshad said children in Fiji faced huge trauma which lasted their entire life.
He said children should not be sent to special homes but should be brought up by their parents in their own homes.
"Special homes are like prisons for children. They face huge difficulties growing up in such places," he said.
Dr Arshad said if people started respecting children, it meant they were respecting the future of the society.