Category Archives: Children

‘Momentous milestone’ as Africa eradicates wild poliovirus

UNICEF Angola: Angola polio vaccination campaign.

The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the 47 countries in the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region are free of the virus, with no cases reported for four years.

“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. 

Polio is a viral disease that can cause paralysis, and mainly affects children under five.  

The virus is transmitted from person to person, mostly through contact with infected faeces, or less frequently through contaminated water or food. It enters the body through the mouth and multiplies inside the intestines. 

While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through a simple and effective oral vaccine, thus protecting a child for life.  

‘A historic day for Africa’ 

The ARCC certification entailed a decades-long process of documentation and analysis of polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity, as well as field verification visits to each country in the region. 

The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was detected in Nigeria in 2016. 

“Today is a historic day for Africa,” said Professor Rose Gana Fomban Leke, ARCC Chairperson, announcing the certification. 

 A commitment by leaders 

The journey to eradication began with a promise made in 1996 by Heads of State during the 32nd session of the Organization of African Unity held in Yaoundé, Cameroon,  where they pledged to stamp out polio, which was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children annually on the continent. 

That same year, the late Nelson Mandela jumpstarted Africa’s commitment to polio eradication by launching the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, supported by Rotary International, which mobilized nations to step up efforts to ensure every child received the polio vaccine. 

Nearly two million spared  

Since then, polio eradication efforts have spared up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis, and saved approximately 180,000 lives, WHO reported. 

“This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists,” said Dr. Moeti.  

“I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.” 

Always remain vigilant 

However, Dr. Moeti warned that Africa must remain vigilant against a resurgence of the wild poliovirus.  

Keeping vaccination rates up also wards against the continued threat of vaccine-derived polio, or cVDPV2. 

WHO explained that while rare, vaccine-derived polioviruses can occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine passes among populations with low levels of immunization.  Over time, the virus mutates to a form that can cause paralysis.  

Adequate immunization thus protects against wild polio and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses, the UN agency said. 

Learning from polio eradication 

WHO officials in Africa believe that the experience in eradicating wild poliovirus has other benefits for health on the continent. 

Despite weak health systems, and significant logistical and operational challenges, countries collaborated effectively to achieve the milestone, according to Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the region. 

“With the innovations and expertise that the polio programme has established, I am confident that we can sustain the gains, post-certification, and eliminate cVDPV2,” he said. 

The experience also will inform response to other challenges, both new and ongoing, Dr. Moeti added. 

“The expertise gained from polio eradication will continue to assist the African region in tackling COVID-19 and other health problems that have plagued the continent for so many years and ultimately move the continent toward universal health coverage,” she said. “This will be the true legacy of polio eradication in Africa.” 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1071022

Punished for being poor? Mexico child labor case makes poverty a crime, critics say

A Central American migrant child is silhouetted at the Pan de Vida migrant shelter at Anapra neighborhood, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY, – The arrest of three Mexican women accused of trafficking more than 20 children from within their extended family has been criticized by rights activists, who say they are being punished for being poor.

Prosecutors found the malnourished children during a raid last month on a house in Chiapas, the country’s poorest state, and said they were being forced by their relatives to hawk souvenirs and other trinkets in the streets.

But campaigners and family members reject the trafficking charges, saying the three indigenous women – who are mothers to some of the children – simply took the youngsters to work with them occasionally, as many low-income parents do in Mexico.

“Lots of families… go out selling with their daughters and sons because there isn’t anywhere to leave them,” said Jennifer Haza, director of Chiapas children’s rights nonprofit Melel Xojobal.

“For us, there isn’t evidence of human trafficking,” she said, adding that instead of pursuing prosecutions in such cases, the state government should be looking at ways to give vulnerable children a better start in life.

Mother-of-five Enereida Gomez, sister of one of the detained women, said they sometimes had no choice but to take the children with them onto the streets while they sold handicrafts.

“We’re not criminals,” Gomez said, sobbing at a recent news conference on the case, which has received international media attention.

Another local nonprofit Colectiva Cereza has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to ask for its intervention in the case, citing what it called inconsistencies in the investigation.

But Chiapas State Attorney General Jorge Llaven has defended the prosecutions, saying children can be trafficked by their parents and that being poor cannot be an excuse for crime.

“Exploitation, of course, is a crime that is closely linked with poverty, but we can’t use poverty to justify a crime or else we would become ungovernable,” he told reporters earlier this month.

“We also aren’t criminalizing poverty, I want to make that clear,” he said.

The prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request for further comment about the case, which received renewed scrutiny following the death in custody of Adolfo Gomez, an indigenous Tzotzil man and the grandfather of most of the children.

His wife was also detained.

TRAFFICKING LAW REFORM?

Labor trafficking expert Monica Salazar said it was important to consider the conditions that the three detained mothers were living in themselves, and what benefit they got from the situation.

Mexican law uses a very broad definition of trafficking, which has led to calls for it to be changed, including from the current government.

Salazar, who supports reforming the law, said it should be updated to reflect the reality of poor families.

“It’s not the same to talk about a ‘benefit’ that no one dies of hunger in a family versus organized crime taking advantage,” said Salazar, the founder of nonprofit Dignificando El Trabajo (DITRAC).

More than three quarters of people live in poverty in Chiapas, a southern state bordering Guatemala.

Thousands of children, including some of those found in the raid, do not have birth certificates or go to school, Haza said.

Twenty of the children who were found are now in a government shelter and Melel Xojobal is trying to reunite them with grandparents and other relatives. The other three are babies, so are with their mothers in prison, Haza said.

Prosecutors raided the house in Chiapas after Adolfo Gomez, the grandfather, was detained in a separate case linked to the disappearance of a two-year-old boy.

The missing boy was eventually found safe and well but Gomez died in prison within two weeks of his arrest. Relatives say prison authorities told them he had died by suicide, but they claim his body showed signs of torture.

Chiapas prosecutors said last week they had arrested two public servants for breaches of their duty of care of Gomez.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200825093239-fnkmv/

UN: Nearly 500 million children excluded from remote schooling

UNICEF report says even children with adequate access may face other obstacles to distance education [Ali Hashisho/Reuters]

An estimated 463 million children have been unable to access remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread school closures, according to the United Nations children’s fund.

A new report published on Thursday by UNICEF said at least one-third of the world’s schoolchildren lack the equipment or electronic access that would allow them to pursue distance education. 

“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said in a statement.

“The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come,” she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest disruption to education in history, with schools closed in some 160 countries in mid-July, affecting an estimated 1.5 billion students, according to the UN. 

A new report published in July by international charity Save the Children said nearly 10 million children may never go back to school because of deep budget cuts and rising poverty caused by the pandemic.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, many countries switched to online learning, but aid groups say this has only widened the learning gap between children from rich and poor families.

The UNICEF report underlined gaping geographical differences in children’s access to distance education, with far fewer affected in Europe, for example, than in Africa or parts of Asia.

The report is based on data gathered from roughly 100 countries, measuring public access to the internet, television and radio.

Even children with adequate access may face other obstacles to distance education – whether the lack of a good workspace at home, pressure to do other work for the family, or a lack of technical support when computer problems arise, the UNICEF report said.

Of the students around the world unable to access virtual education, 67 million are in Eastern and Southern Africa, 54 million in western and central Africa, 80 million in the Pacific and East Asia, 37 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 147 million in South Asia, and 13 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

No figures were given for Canada or the United States – the worst-affected country by the virus – where the issue of reopening of schools has sparked fierce political debate and concern among educators.

With the new school year soon to begin in many countries – including in-person classes in many places – UNICEF urged governments to “prioritise the safe reopening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions”.

Where reopening is impossible, governments should arrange for “compensatory learning for lost instructional time”, the report said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/500-million-children-excluded-remote-schooling-200827053540044.html

Bringing Catholic social teaching to boys recovering from street life

Boys from the Bosco center in Nairobi, which is run by the Salesians, pose with their instructors.

Kartel is from Umoja slum in Nairobi. Another social worker and I found this 4-year old at a garbage dump site, shivering with cold. We took him to the hospital and then looked for his sole caretaker, a 14-year-old brother. They were living alone much of the time, but we later discovered their grandmother, also a street dweller, living in a mabati (an iron-sheet shelter) flooded with water. We could see where they huddled together with goats at night to keep warm. When we suggested that the boys join us, the grandmother was relieved to know Bosco Boys would care for her grandsons.

This is just one story that I have learned since 2017, when I began working as a social worker with boys like these two at Bosco Boys. Right now I volunteer there, as I am studying for my bachelor’s degree in sustainable human development at Tangaza University in Nairobi. The work at Bosco Boys is now part of my practicum requirement.

At the Bosco Boys informal school, I teach art and life skills and serve as counsellor and after-school tutor. This informal setting is a basic preparation for some of the boys to later attend Kuwinda, a primary boarding school. I like the boys and find them friendly and cooperative, and we have grown in mutual understanding and trust. I also find they are unusually responsible in doing their work, except at times when they fall behind in doing homework.

I think their responsibility is a result of having to live on their own and fend for themselves. But the discipline of study is challenging for some because — coming from street life — their listening abilities are not well developed, and they are easily distracted.

One of the methodologies proven successful for rehabilitation at the center is play therapy. The boys spend several hours a day in games. One of my challenges in working with the boys is understanding their slang. It is like another language. I have to ask them to explain what they are saying in ordinary language.

The boys are organized into four group houses, and positive competition is encouraged; they are rewarded for good behavior and completed assignments. Although this system is a way to help them to discipline themselves, as they can keep each other from “messing up,” there are times when informal cliques erupt into fights, even over small issues.

Bosco Boys Langata rehabilitation center was established in 1994 by the Salesian Priests to help boys overcome addictions and behaviors learned on the street. Thirty-two boys ages 5 to 11 are undergoing rehabilitation at the moment, and more than 3,000 have benefited from this center. Some of the boys live at the center, but others are day students. The boys usually stay from one to two years, and a good number of them are successfully rehabilitated.

Most of the boys I work with are from the slums of Kibera (the largest Kenya slum), Mathare (the second largest slum), Rongai and other slums around the country. These very large slums are infamously tough, marked by widespread poverty, unemployment and high crime rates. It is not an easy place for children to grow up, although many do. Education is also limited because school fees are a luxury for most families living there.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/bringing-catholic-social-teaching-boys-recovering-street-life

With schools closed, child labour on the rise in lockdown Uganda

Omara Mark Desmond, 13, sells masks outside a petrol station to support his family. Child rights organisations say they are seeing a rise in child labour during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo taken on June 22, 2020, in Gulu, northern Uganda. Sally Hayden/Thomson Reuters Foundation

GULU, Uganda, – Every morning soon after dawn, 10-year-old Moses leaves home carrying trays of hard-boiled eggs and walks for half an hour to sell them outside a petrol station in the Ugandan city of Gulu.

With schools closed indefinitely since the nation went into a strict lockdown to fight COVID-19 in March, Moses is among some 15 million Ugandan children at risk of being forced to work as families are pushed towards extreme poverty, charities say.

After seven hours hawking his eggs, which sell for 500 Ugandan shillings($0.13) apiece, and doing his best to avoid police enforcing the lockdown, Moses picked up his trays and headed home.

“Business isn’t good. We won’t have enough food,” he said, as a group of boys, also selling eggs, asked him how his day had been.

A Save the Children report carried out in May found 56% of Ugandans had noticed an increase in child labour since the beginning of the lockdown.

“(There are) children in the streets selling stuff, selling alcohol, selling food in the markets, but also some of the big gold mines, we’ve had quite a few reports of more children going to work there,” said Alun McDonald, head of advocacy and communications for Save the Children in Uganda.

He said the charity has also been getting reports about increasing numbers of teenage girls being drawn into sex work to help their families make ends meet and buy everyday goods including food and sanitary pads.

The pandemic has put millions of children worldwide at risk of being pushed into labour, reversing two decades of work to combat the practice and potentially marking the first rise in child labour since 2000, the United Nations warned in June.

‘LIFE IS SO HARD’

Moses lives with his grandmother Fatima Khamis, 45, who looks after 16 children in total. As the only elder in her extended family she is expected to care for relatives’ children in a crisis situation, such as the pandemic.

Before the lockdown, Khamis used to run her own business selling snacks to students, but she had to shut down as customers stayed home.

Government food aid has barely covered the capital city, Kampala, and Khamis has received only 3 kg (6.6 pounds) of beans and 5 kg of rice since the coronavirus curbs took effect.

Besides Moses, two other girls work selling samosas but the household’s meagre income only stretches to one meal a day now.

“Life has become so hard,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some of Khamis’s wards are orphans, some are her own children, and others have been placed in her care because their parents were unable to look after them.

Moses’s father is out of work while his mother got stuck in southern Uganda when the lockdown started.

Even before the pandemic shut down her business, the four youngest school-age children living with Khamis were not attending classes because she could not afford to pay school fees and buy books, paper and pens.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200708085058-8ptfw/

Nigeria’s child development crisis is a tragedy. Here’s how we can end it

Najia child
Computer lessons in Lagos. A national emergency response is needed to get all Nigeria’s children into quality schooling. Photograph: Cavan Images/Alamy

If you want a window on the condition of children in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, there is no better vantage point than the Katanga health centre in the impoverished northern state of Jigawa.

In a hut that passes for a nutrition clinic, a group of 25 women wait with their children. Tiny bodies bearing the hallmarks of acute malnutrition – distended stomachs and twig-thin limbs – are lifted into a weighing harness and their arms measured to check for signs of wasting. Ali, who has just reached his first birthday, weighs only 5kg – the average age of a two-month-old in the UK. His mother is 14.

Sitting under a tree in the forecourt, another severely malnourished child is gasping for breath. Nayo, who is seven months, has the telltale symptoms of severe pneumonia – a collapsed rib cage, deep cough and fever. He desperately needs antibiotics and medical oxygen. The clinic has neither. “I’m worried for his life, there is nowhere to go for help,” his mother tells me.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and a global energy-exporting superpower. It is endowed with vast natural resources. But the country is rooted near the foot of the World Bank’s global league table for human capital – a composite measure capturing the health, education and nutritional status of children.

Five years ago Nigeria’s leaders joined the rest of the world in embracing the 2030 sustainable development goals. They include targets to end preventable child and maternal deaths, eradicate malnutrition and give all children a quality education. Almost half of Nigeria’s 200 million population is under 15, and achieving these goals would catalyse the dynamic and inclusive growth needed to create jobs.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is either treading water or sinking like a stone on all the key 2030 indicators for child development. More than 800,000 children lose their lives each year, mainly to preventable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. Over the past decade, the country’s share of global under-five deaths doubled – to 16% of the total – and continues to rise.

Malnutrition is endemic. Almost half of Nigeria’s children are stunted by nutritional deprivation, with devastating consequences for health and cognitive development. About 2 million face life-threatening malnutrition. Vaccination against killer diseases is critical for malnourished children. But millions of children in Nigeria have not been immunised.

More than 10 million children aged 5–14 years are out of school – more than in any other country – even though education is nominally free and compulsory. Most of those in school are getting a fifth-rate education after years of underinvestment. Children with eight years of schooling typically have learning skills equivalent to four years of primary education.

There are also deep fractures linked to inequalities in wealth, region and gender. Children born into the poorest 20% of families are eight times more likely to succumb to fatal illness. Young girls, especially those in the northern states, are far more likely to be forced into early marriage. Almost one in five girls are married by the age of 15, according to Unicef.

Nigeria’s child development crisis is a tragedy for the country. Over the next three decades the population will double, making Nigeria the world’s third most populous country. By 2050 almost one in every 10 children born in the world will be Nigerian. Sheer weight of numbers dictates that the fate of Nigeria’s children will shape the world’s development.

So what can be done to break the malaise?

First, Nigeria urgently needs to convert economic wealth into human capital, starting with investment in children. Current revenue collection levels are among the lowest in the world, holding back vital public spending in areas such as health and education. Changing this picture will require a broader and deeper tax base, with strengthened royalty collection from oil companies.

The federal government has passed some encouraging legislation on education and public health. But at 0.6% of GDP, Nigeria’s health spending is comparable to countries such as Yemen and Afghanistan. The result is clinics like the one in Jigawa, without trained health workers, medicines and vital equipment.

Second, a national emergency response is needed to get all children into quality schooling. Unlocking the potential of Nigeria’s children would transform the country.

That won’t be possible without a third component for change – a concerted drive to combat the deep inequalities facing girls and women. It is surely time for Nigeria’s politicians, as well religious and traditional leaders, to push for an end to child marriage – a practice that violates human rights, destroys opportunity and perpetuates poverty.

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jan/15/nigerias-child-development-crisis-is-a-tragedy-heres-how-we-can-end-it

Missionary priest rescues children from slavery in the DRC mines

Rebuild
A miner in eastern DRC. Credit: Griff Tapper / AFP / Getty Images.

.- Fr. Willy Milayi is a Missionary of the Immaculate Conception who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He works rescuing children who have fled the coltan mines and offering them a place to live and learn a trade.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one the world’s top producers of coltan, a rare mineral used in the manufacture of many electronic devices, such as cell phones.

Working conditions in the DRC’s coltan mines are dangerous and the workers, including young children, are often exploited.

“The exploitation of these mines is in the hands of the guerrillas,” explained Fr. Malayi in an interview with the Diocese of Málaga in Spain.

“Our cell phones are stained with the blood of the ‘walking dead children’.”

Malayi works with children who have escaped forced labor in the mines. Many of them are living on the streets when he finds them. Some 20,000 children live on the streets of Kinshasa alone.

The Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception have started an educational center in the city. He described the center as “a home where they can learn a trade that ensures them a future away from the mines and to never return to the streets.”

“We can’t solve all the problems, but we thank God for every one of the children we can rescue. It’s a true miracle that is made possible thanks to people of goodwill,” Malayi said.

The priest recounted one boy he encountered in his ministry, who had escaped the mines and fled hundreds of miles.

Starving and grief-stricken, the boy needed someone to listen to him. “After giving him something to eat, he told me about his life,” Malayi said.

The boy said that his family had been kidnapped from their house by militiamen, who took them to the forest and told them they must choose between death and mining coltan 13 hours a day.

The family chose the mines: “They worked 650 feet below the surface taking out 15 sacks of coltan a day, for which they received two dollars at the end of the month,” Malayi said.

When riots broke out against the militias, they raped and killed the boy’s mother and two teenage sisters. They also killed his father.

“He managed to escape. But he told me amid tears: ‘I’m not afraid of death, I’m a corpse and a corpse does not fear death’,” the priest said.

At the educational center, the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception teach the children “to take care of each other,” Malayi said.

“We have heard more than one of them say: ‘Father Willy taught us that when we are older we’ll have to help.’ I think this is a very important step,” he said.

Malayi called on Christians to “defend the dignity of the person, the image of God” and recognize the value of each person as a brother or sister.

“In our world this concept has been lost, and we have put material things ahead of people,” he said. “What is killing us today is indifference. We don’t want to know anything about other people’s problems, and we just talk about our own. What is more worrisome than material poverty is spiritual poverty.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/how-one-priest-is-helping-children-whove-escaped-slavery-in-the-drc-mines-25986

Give children ‘less sugar and more veg in baby food’

BabyGetty Images

The amount of sugar in baby food should be restricted and parents should give their young children more vegetables to stop them developing a sweet tooth, a report from child health experts says.

It warns that even baby food marked “no added sugar” often contains sugars from honey or fruit juice.

Parents should offer bitter flavours too, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends.

This will guard against tooth decay, poor diet and obesity.

The recommendation is one of many included in a report on how to improve the health of children in the UK.

Reducing child obesity is a key priority in all parts of the UK, with England and Scotland committing to halving rates by 2030.

Targeting food high in sugar and fat is an important part of that aim, following the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in England in 2018.

The report says the government should introduce mandatory limits on the amount of free sugar in baby foods.

Many can contain high levels of sugar added by the manufacturer or present in syrups and fruit juices, it says, despite labels suggesting otherwise.

The report says infants should not be given sugary drinks. Instead, they should have sugar in a natural form, such as whole fresh fruit, milk or unsweetened dairy products.

Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said products for weaning babies often contained a high proportion of fruit or sweet-tasting vegetables.

“Pureed or liquid baby foods packaged in pouches also often have a high energy density and a high proportion of sugar,” she said.

“If sucked from the pouch, the baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding himself.

“Baby foods can be labelled ‘no added sugar’ if the sugar comes from fruit – but all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism.”

‘Broccoli and spinach’

She said babies had a preference for sweet tastes but parents should not reinforce that.

“Babies are very willing to try different flavours, if they’re given the chance,” Prof Fewtrell said, “and it’s important that they’re introduced to a variety of flavours, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, from a young age.”

Prof Fewtrell also said parents should be educated on the impact of sugar.

“Excess sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay, which is the most common oral disease in children, affecting nearly a quarter (23%) of five-year-olds.”

She added that sugar intake also contributed to children becoming overweight and obese.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends sugar provides no more than 5% of daily total energy intake for those aged two and over, and even less for children under two.

But results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggest the average daily intake for the children between one-and-a-half and three years is 11.3% – more than double the recommended amount.

A review of food and drinks aimed at young children, by Public Health England, found that processed dried fruit products contained the highest amount of sugar – but were often marketed as healthy snacks.

The products, which contain fruit juices, purees and concentrates, making them high in free sugars, should not be sold as suitable snacks for children, PHE said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-48773636

Frightened and displaced, Papua children haunted by conflict

TeenageChildren sit on benches at a temporary school built for those feeling unrest in Nduga [Febriana Firdaus/Al Jazeera]

Wamena, Indonesia – Under the pine trees, a nine-year-old girl is sitting on a blue tarpaulin, rubbing her feet.

For the past six months, she’s been living in a church-run shelter after escaping the chaos that enveloped her village in Nduga, a remote highland region in the western part of the island of Papua.

“I was just sitting in my house and a ‘bomb’ dropped from the sky,” she said, recalling the bang of what could have been a grenade. “I fled with my family,” the young girl continued. “I saw houses were burning. We walked and slept like nomads in the jungle for three weeks.”

She is one of an estimated 35,000 civilians, many of them children, forced from their homes in the remote territory’s central highlands as the military attempted to root out Papuan independence fighters who attacked a road construction project in December last year, killing at least 17 people.

Major General Sisriadi, a spokesman for Indonesia’s armed forces, told Al Jazeera 600 troops had been sent to the area in what he described as a law enforcement operation to support the police.

“As mentioned in our constitution, we must defend our country’s land,” Sisriadi said. “We have to do anything to defend it.”

Indonesia took control of the vast and remote territory bordering Papua New Guinea in 1969 after a controversial referendum in which only 1,026 people were allowed to participate. The vote gave new momentum to the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army, which has continued the struggle for independence ever since.

The region is Indonesia’s poorest, despite its wealth of natural resources. Access to the area for foreign journalists remains restricted and even those who get permission to visit can run into trouble with the authorities.

Nduga, a mountainous area that is one of the world’s last pristine tropical forests, has been at the centre of much of the instability.

The local communities are indigenous Melanesian people, who are mostly Christian and speak their own languages rather than Bahasa Indonesia. Subsistence farmers, they live on their ancestral lands, growing crops and raising pigs, and supplementing their diet with leaves gathered from the forest and the wild boar that forage among the trees.

An investigation by the local administration into the military’s operations in Nduga in December alleged the armed forces had destroyed homes and churches in their bid to flush out the rebels.

Sisriadi accused the independence movement of using local villagers as cover, but none of the displaced people Al Jazeera met said they had been threatened by the rebels.

Theo Hesegem, a human rights activist who helped research the local administration’s report, told Al Jazeera that eyewitnesses who preferred not to be named had also told him that bombs had been dropped from helicopters on both December 4 and December 5. The military denies the allegations.

Desperate to escape the fighting, many people trekked through the forest for weeks to find safety surviving on leaves and ferns.

Innah Gwejangge, the head of Nduga Health Department whose team has been providing medical services to the displaced villagers, said many of the children were suffering from illnesses, including respiratory infections and diarrhoea brought on by their ordeal.

“They told me there was no food,” Gwejangge said. “They ate anything they could find, such as roots from trees. Some of them were naked. I saw babies wearing nothing, their parents put them inside noken [traditional woven bag] and covered them with leaves,” she added.

Hundreds of displaced people have found refuge in the 23 shelters set up by a local Protestant Church in the town of Wamena, the largest settlement in the central highlands.

In one shelter, dozens of children and adults are living in a single house with only one bathroom and kitchen. Most shelters provide a temporary home for between two and 10 families.

“They are still scared,” Dolu Bruangge, a volunteer, said of the displaced. “They don’t trust outsiders.”

Many are desperate to return home so they can get back to their land and what is left of their crops. Church volunteers have given them clothing and other basic necessities.

They have also built a school, staffed with teachers from the local authority. Inside, the students sit on wooden benches beneath a tin roof, surrounded by walls fashioned out of tarpaulin, which billows and rips when the wind picks up.

Jennes Sampouw, the head of Nduga’s educational department, said 695 students from 32 districts had now joined the emergency schools. His goal was to make sure the students could take part in the national exams that took place in April.

But the displaced children still find it difficult to get medical services because hospitals can only treat people who are registered locally.

“These children have a right to be protected by the country as mentioned in our children protection law,” Retno Listyarti of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), an independent agency, told Al Jazeera, stressing that trauma counselling was also crucial.

Fighting between the military and the separatists continues. On May 13, local media reported an officer had been killed after the rebels attacked an airfield in Nduga.

The continuing unrest means the children are unlikely to return home any time soon. But even when they do go back to their villages, the spectre of violence will continue to haunt them.

“I am afraid the soldiers will come back again,” said the nine-year-old girl.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/frightened-displaced-papua-children-haunted-conflict-190531060054648.html

Abuse, ‘survival sex’ a stark reality for child migrants: Report

Abuse photoChildren traveling with a caravan of migrants from Central America stand on the beach and near the border fence between Mexico and the US, prior to preparations for an asylum request in the US in Tijuana, Mexico [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

by Faras Ghani

Unaccompanied child migrants face dangerous journeys during transit, including abuse and detention, rights organisations have warned, highlighting significant failings in safeguarding unaccompanied minors.

A recent report by UNHCR revealed that nearly 140,000 people arrived in Greece, Italy and Spain in search of safety in 2018. Almost 11,000 of the new arrivals were unaccompanied children.

Additionally, according to the Red Cross, more than 300,000 unaccompanied child migrants are currently at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence during transit.

The perilous journey undertaken by these young migrants without an accompanying adult makes them vulnerable to being assaulted, sexually abused, raped, trafficked into sexual exploitation or forced into “survival sex”, according to an International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) report Alone and Unsafe, which shows that the number of unaccompanied child migrants has grown five-fold in five years.

Europe accounted for more than half of unaccompanied minor arrivals in 2017, with more than 158,000 reaching the continent in the first three quarters of the year.

Currently, almost 30 percent of all asylum seekers across that continent are children, half of whom are from just three countries: Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The stark reality is that it is now standard practice that children moving through the Mediterranean are abused, trafficked, beaten and discriminated against,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.

A joint UNICEF-IOM report also revealed that children from sub-Saharan Africa are targeted more than any other group, highlighting discrimination and racism along transit routes.

The reason for their departure ranges from abuse at home and peer pressure to violence, says IFRC President Francesco Rocca, who called on UN member countries to address the root causes.

“In Cox’s Bazar, for example, we saw many children with their neighbours because their parents were killed,” Rocca told Al Jazeera.

“In Niger, we see young girls from Nigeria who sold themselves for sex for as low as $3. In Central America, there’s violence that drives them out. It creates a very, very difficult environment for them to live in.”

More support needed
More than 40 percent of all child asylum seekers are girls. A poll by UNICEF late last year revealed that almost half of nearly 4,000 refugees and migrants aged 14 to 24 were forced to leave their countries, 44 percent of them left alone.

Some 38 percent said they did not receive any help from anyone, including family, friends or relatives, while almost half the respondents reported that they had been unable to see a doctor when needed.

“While politicians are squabbling over migration, 4,000 uprooted children and young people are telling us they need more support,” said Laurence Chandy, Director of Data, Research and Policy for UNICEF.

“Uprooted children can teach us a great deal about their needs and vulnerabilities if we are willing to hear them. Migration is inevitable, but the danger and discrimination experienced by refugee and migrant children doesn’t have to be.”

The risks, including sexual and gender-based violence, do not abate once these child migrants arrive in a country of destination, according to the IFRC.

A study, based on interviews with unaccompanied children from Horn of Africa countries who migrated to the United Kingdom, revealed that 72 percent of the respondents experienced more than one incident of sexual violence upon arrival – most of these incidents happened in the first 12 months after their arrival in the UK.

This shows that their safety is not guaranteed, even after reaching the desired destination country, added Rocca.

“If there isn’t enough protection in the country of destination, there is a very high risk of being exploited and exposed to the violence. These vulnerable people can also be forced to the labour market.”

 

 

 

 
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/abuse-survival-sex-stark-reality-child-migrants-report-190204113958830.html