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The Social Affairs Ministry will launch a campaign today aimed at raising public awareness of child abuse and encouraging people to report suspected abuse to the authorities.

The campaign will star actress Yael Abecassis. Its slogan will be "You cannot remain silent when a child is in danger" (which rhymes in Hebrew).

The ministry noted that immediately after the media began reporting on the murder of 4-year-old Rose Pizem, there was a sharp rise in the number of people reporting cases of suspected child abuse, proving that raising public awareness of the problem does have an impact. It decided to mount the campaign during the eight-day Hanukkah holiday because when kids are home from school, their parents spend more time with them, and that causes an increase in the incidence of abuse.

Altogether, the ministry said, some 330,000 Israeli children are considered at risk of abuse and/or neglect. And ministry director general Nahum Itzkovitz said he fears the current economic crisis will lead to a rise in actual abuse.

The Association of Social Workers, however, expressed doubts about the value of the campaign. "Who exactly will the public report to?" demanded association chairman Itzik Perry. "To the social workers - who are already collapsing?"

According to the association, each social worker is already responsible for an average of 150 to 200 cases at a time, and due to the shortage of personnel, the wait for an interview with a youth investigator - the only social workers authorized to question children about suspected abuse - can be as long as three months.

"The campaign will increase the number of reports, but the only result will be an increased burden on the system," Perry said.