Category Archives: Children

Child soldiers of South Sudan

Child soilder photo

Former child soldiers during the release ceremony, outside Yambio in South Sudan. One hundred twenty-eight children (90 boys and 38 girls) were officially released at this ceremony by two armed groups, bringing the total number released this year to over 900. ANDREEA CAMPEANU/AL JAZEERA

by Andreea Campeanu & Patricia Huon

Yambio, South Sudan – On the red, dusty ground in Yambio, under a large mango tree, a group of 30 girls and boys, some wearing military clothes and some with guns next to them, sit in the shade eating biscuits while waiting for the start of the ceremony to release them from the army.

The US ambassador and other guests are coming from the capital Juba to attend the event.

They are part of the 900 children released from the armed forces in South Sudan in 2018, the country with one of the largest number of child soldiers in the world. The ceremony consists of them symbolically taking off the military clothes, and receiving blue UNICEF labelled notebooks and schoolbags.

According to the UN, there are still 19,000 children in armed forces in South Sudan, a number contested by the army. “We have concerns about the figures published by UNICEF. We don’t know how they came up with those numbers. Now, it’s true that some other groups that were integrated into the SPLA had child soldiers among them. But our policy is clear: we don’t want child soldiers,” said Lul Ruai Koang, the spokesperson for the South Sudan’s People Defence Force (former SPLA). “We gave their names to UNICEF. In Pibor or Yambio, they have been demobilised. We facilitate the process. After, it’s their responsibility to help them.”

Many of the children in the ceremony have already returned to their communities before the official release. They received medical screenings, counselling and psychosocial support as part of their rehabilitation, and some were assisted to return to school, while others received vocational training. Their families were also provided with food assistance.

But across South Sudan and in refugee camps outside the country, there are children and youth who left or escaped from the armed forces but received no assistance and have not been through a rehabilitation programme. Depending on age, boys are either used as porters, cleaners, or are trained to fight. Girls are often taken as “wives”, and often return in their communities with children.

“We see depression, anxiety. They have intrusive thoughts that come back. That can be triggered by something happening, but of which they have no control. That can affect their functionality,” says Rayan Fattouch, mental health specialist working in Yambio with Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF).

MSF is medically screening the children who were associated with armed groups. Part of it is the mental health aspect. They are dealing with children and young adults who are facing “moderate to severe trauma”.

“The child needs to feel embraced by his community. And that can change from one community to another, depending on the experiences they have been through. They have their own trauma,” said Fattouch

Link

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/child-soldiers-south-sudan

Yemen famine

Yemen on brink of ‘world’s worst famine in 100 years’ if war continues

UN warns that famine could overwhelm country in next three months, with 13 million people at risk of starvation

Hannah Summer
The Guardian Global Development, October 15, 2018

Famine

Malnourished boys in a malnutrition treatment centre in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Yemen could be facing the worst famine in 100 years if airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are not halted, the UN has warned.

If war continues, famine could engulf the country in the next three months, with 12 to 13 million civilians at risk of starvation, according to Lise Grande, the agency’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

She told the BBC: “I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union – that was just unacceptable. “Many of us had the confidence that would never happen again and yet the reality is that in Yemen that is precisely what we are looking at.”

Yemen has been in the grip of a bloody civil war for three years after Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a. The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels since 2015 in support of the internationally recognised government.

Thousands of civilians have been caught in the middle, trapped by minefields and barrages of mortars and airstrikes. The resulting humanitarian catastrophe has seen at least 10,000 people killed and millions displaced.

Speaking on Sunday evening, Grande said: “There’s no question we should be ashamed, and we should, every day that we wake up, renew our commitment to do everything possible to help the people that are suffering and end the conflict.”

Her comments came after the UN and humanitarian workers condemned an airstrike in which the Saudi-led coalition targeted Yemen’s Shia rebels, killing at least 15 people near the port city of Hodeidah.

Video footage released by the rebels showed the remains of a mangled minibus littered with groceries following the attack on Saturday, which left 20 others injured.
The Houthi rebels reported that five members of the same family were among those killed, adding that many children were among the casualties.

“The United Nations agencies working in Yemen unequivocally condemn the attack on civilians and extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” said Grande.
She added: “Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to respect the principles of precaution, proportionality and distinction. Belligerents must do everything possible to protect civilians not hurt, maim, injure or kill them.”

Hodeidah, with its key port installations that bring in UN and other humanitarian aid, has become the centre of Yemen’s conflict, with ground troops allied to the coalition struggling to drive out the rebels controlling it.

The killing and maiming of civilians including many children in the Red Sea city of has soared in the last three months according to aid workers.

Since June more than 170 people have been killed and at least 1,700 have been injured in Hodeidah province, with more than 425,000 people forced to flee their homes.
A Gulf coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been trying to wrestle back control of the strategic port city.

If the array of Yemeni militias takes the city it would be their biggest victory against the rebels, although the battle on the Red Sea coast also threatens to throw Yemen into outright famine.

Last month Save the Children warned the fighting was turning into a “war on children” with thousands suffering life-changing injuries in the attacks.

On a visit to Yemen the charity’s CEO, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, warned attacks on schools and hospitals were on the rise, with children on the frontline of violence and medics unable to cope with the influx of the wounded.

Meanwhile the country’s currency has collapsed and food prices have doubled in the last month, fueling the threat of famine.

 

JPIC Statement in response to the shooting in Parkland, Florida

In response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the US grieve for those who lost their lives in this tragedy and stand with the surviving students and people from all corners of the United States who are demanding legislative action on gun control.

Doing nothing is not an option. We need our legislators to come together and engage in a process that results in passing and implementing laws that will address safety in our schools, workplaces and public spaces.

As educators of students from preschool through university and adult education in the United States we support the people of Parkland, Florida. We also empathize with students, parents, and administrators all across this country who on a daily basis face the potential for gun violence in their schools.

We agree with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, when in support of a ban on assault weapons they said. “We must respond. Violence in our schools, and streets, our nation and the world – is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.”

As Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, we strive to be people of justice and peace in a world that is too often violent. We invite others to join us on this journey towards peace. Let us stand together to keep all who are suffering from the violence in Parkland in our hearts and prayer and let us take action now.

Please contact your legislators right now. Respectfully let them know that you expect them to immediately work with their colleagues to pass a bill that will address violence associated with guns in this country.

 

 

 

U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says

New York Times

EMMARIE HUETTEMANJAN

children
A child from Honduras watched a movie at a United States Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, Tex., in 2014. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services placed more than a dozen immigrant children in the custody of human traffickers after it failed to conduct background checks of caregivers, according to a Senate report released on Thursday.

Examining how the federal agency processes minors who arrive at the border without a guardian, lawmakers said they found that it had not followed basic practices of child welfare agencies, like making home visits. Continue reading U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says

Children Increasingly Becoming the Spoils of War

InterPress Service
By Beatriz Ciordia

Former child soldiers enlisted by Al Shabaab are handed over to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after their capture by forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones
Former child soldiers enlisted by Al Shabaab are handed over to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after their capture by forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 14 2015 (IPS) – Whether in Palestine, Ukraine or Somalia, wars result in millions of children threatened by the brutality of armed conflict.

The numbers speak for themselves: more than 300,000 child soldiers are currently exploited in situations of armed conflict and six million children have been severely injured or permanently disabled, according to UNICEF.

The past year was one of the worst ever for children affected by armed conflict due the alarming rise in abductions, especially mass abductions, of children and adults in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

Likewise, an estimated 20 million children are living as refugees in neighbouring countries or are internally displaced within their own national borders as a result of conflict and human rights violations.

And the U.N. Secretary General’s most recent report, published on June 5, shows that in too many countries, the situation for children is getting worse, not better.

“There is still room at the individual agency level to strengthen safeguards towards prevention of child rights violations,” Dragica Mikavica, advocacy officer of Watchlist, a network of international non-governmental organisations, told IPS.

“For instance, more recently, Watchlist has been lobbying for the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to develop a policy that would ban states placed on the Secretary-General’s ‘list of shame’ from contributing troops to peacekeeping forces in other countries,” she added.

Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, agrees that the U.N. could better protect children from armed conflict in several ways.

“When governments or armed groups refuse to agree to such steps and continue abuses, the Security Council could be much more aggressive in imposing targeted sanctions, such as arms embargoes, or travel bans and asset freezes on the leaders of such groups,” she told IPS.

“The SC should also refer such cases to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution,” she added.

The past year was one of the worst ever for children affected by armed conflict due the alarming rise in abductions, especially mass abductions, of children and adults in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

In addition to kidnappings, thousands of children were killed last year in different parts of the world.

In Iraq, for example, 2014 was the deadliest year for children since the U.N. first started systematically documenting violations against children in 2008, with nearly 700 children killed and almost 1,300 abducted – and these are only the recorded cases.

Likewise, in Palestine, the number of children killed by Israeli forces jumped to 557, more than the number killed in the last two military operations there combined.

In order to step up the fight against this violence, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted on June 18 Resolution 2225, which strengthens the international community’s mobilisation in support of children in armed conflict and condemns their abduction.

The resolution, tabled by Malaysia and sponsored by 56 member states, added abductions as the fifth violation that can trigger a listing of a party to the conflict to the Secretary-General’s “list of shame.”

This list facilitates greater monitoring of abductions and ensures that parties which engage in this particular crime are included on it. Once listed, the U.N. is able to engage the listed parties in negotiating action plans to stop this and other violations from occurring.

The vast majority of these abductions are carried out by non-state groups, including terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram and ISIS, which see mass kidnapping as a shining symbol of success.

Raising the profile of the abduction of children at the highest level – such as in form of a Security Council resolution – also endows child protection actors with greater capacity to advocate for response surrounding this egregious violation.

However, as UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt argues, abduction is often only the first in a series of grave violations, followed by sexual assault and rape, indoctrination, recruitment as child soldiers and murder.

“Each offence blights that child. It robs her of her childhood and threatens her ability to live a full and productive life,” she said in an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict at the Security Council on June 18.

Brandt also stressed the importance of providing critical support to children after their release so they can resume “normal life.”

“These children are victims and must be treated as such. They’re inevitably burdened by physical wounds and psychological scars,” she said.

Raising awareness remains a critical point in the battle against the brutality suffered by children in situations of armed conflict.

Social media has proven a valuable tool for raising the public profile of the atrocities committed against children, especially mass abductions in contexts like Nigeria, Syria and Iraq.

“Social media contributed to internal U.N. debates around abductions of children, as the world could not turn a blind eye on what was happening to children last year,” Mikavica told IPS.

“All of this resulted in concrete actions by the Council at the last Open Debate as seen through trigger expansion,” she added.

However, as Becker told IPS, it’s important to keep in mind that although social media has been exceptionally effective in raising awareness of mass abductions of children by Boko Haram and other armed groups, it’s just a tool, not a substitute for action, which remains the real challenge for the U.N. and other international organisations.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The Kids Are Alright As Washington Judge Delivers Youth Climate Win

Common Dreams
by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

“‘We may have won a battle, but we’re still fighting a bigger war,’ says 14-year-old petitioner.”

Citing what she called the “historical lack of political will to respond adequately to the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming,” a judge in Washington state handed a group of eight young petitioners a landmark win this week, ordering the Department of Ecology (ECY) to consider statewide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions based on best available science.

The youngest of the climate petitioners, some of whom are pictured here with attorney Andrea Rodgers, is nine years old. (Photo: Our Children's Trust/Facebook)
The youngest of the climate petitioners, some of whom are pictured here with attorney Andrea Rodgers, is nine years old. (Photo: Our Children’s Trust/Facebook)

“The effect of this decision is that for the first time in the United States, a court of law has ordered a state agency to consider the most current and best available climate science when deciding to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center, attorney for the youth petitioners, who are in elementary, middle, and high school.

“I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don’t have time to waste. I’m pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won’t stop until change is made.”
—Zoe Foster, 13

The kids acted with the help of a NASA climate scientist as well as Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit orchestrating a global, youth-driven legal campaign to establish the right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate.

“This is a decision of immense national significance,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust, which has similar cases going around the country. “Judge Hill acknowledges the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming, refuses to accept any more bureaucratic delay, and mandates that the State consider and act in just two weeks time on the youth’s scientific evidence that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 [parts per million].”

Continue reading The Kids Are Alright As Washington Judge Delivers Youth Climate Win

New World Information Order, Internet and the Global South – Part I

IPS/ International Press Service
By Branislav Gosovic

VILLAGE TUDOROVICI, Montenegro – More than four decades ago, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) launched the concept of a New International Information Order (NIIO).

Children surf the net in a remote island community in the Philippines where fishing is the main source of income. Credit: eKindling/Lubang Tourism.
Children surf the net in a remote island community in the Philippines where fishing is the main source of income. Credit: eKindling/Lubang Tourism.

Its initiative led to the establishment of an independent commission within the fold of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which produced a report, published in 1980, on a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO).

Incomprehensible to the general public and not suitable for consideration in multilateral policy forums, the Internet governance deliberations have largely been under control of the world superpower and its cyber mega-corporations from Silicon Valley.

The report, titled “One World, Many Voices,” is usually referred to as the MacBride Report after its chairman.

The very idea of venturing to criticise and challenge the existing global media, namely the information and communication hegemony of the West, touched a raw political nerve, apparently a much more sensitive one than that irked by the developing countries’ New International Economic Order (NIEO) proposals. More…