Category Archives: Children

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

Human trafficker at London Olympics gets 30 year prison sentence in U.S.

Trafficking 2A child waves an Union flag near Olympic rings at the entrance of the venue for the men’s modern pentathlon during the London 2012 Olympics at Greenwich Park August 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Jason Fields

WASHINGTON,  (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An “evil” man who tried to traffic a teenage boy into London to be sold for sex during the 2012 Olympics has been sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. prison, in a case of human trafficking that draws attention during international sporting events.

Jason Gandy was stopped in July 2012 by immigration officers in Britain who suspected something was wrong with the adult man traveling with an unrelated 15-year-old boy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

British authorities sent Gandy home to Houston, Texas for trial.

He was convicted of sex trafficking of minors in July and sentenced this week by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal who told him: “You are evil, and most evil are those who willingly exploit others for their own gratification.”

Along with the incident at the London Olympics, there were reports of Nigerians taken to Russia for sex during the World Cup this past summer and, in the United States, football’s Super Bowl also draws concerns over trafficking.

However experts are split on whether such spectacles actively fuel trafficking. Many say the commercial sex market grows during any number of large events and caution that such concern draws attention away from what is a year-round crime.

Some 1.5 million people in the United States are estimated to be victims of trafficking, mostly for sexual exploitation. The majority are children, according to a U.S. Senate report published last year.

Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization.

Of that total, an estimated 4.5 million people are forced into sex work, and children are estimated to comprise 5.5 million of the overall victims, according to the ILO.

In Gandy’s case, the man paid for the boy’s airfare and passport, U.S. officials said.

He planned to make the boy perform massages and sex acts with customers, taking advantage of the crowds gathered for the Olympics, they said.

He also molested the boy himself, they said.

Men who survived Gandy’s molestation testified at his sentencing about their ordeals being enslaved at a massage operation Gandy ran out of his home in Houston, prosecutors said.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219193057-d1lsq

Hundreds of trafficked children go missing from UK care homes

Trafficking photoARCHIVE PHOTO: A girl looks out over fog covered Leicestershire countryside, central England REUTERS/Darren Staples

Findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at time when record number of suspected
child slaves are being referred to government

By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A growing number of
trafficked children in Britain are going missing from care
homes, with some feared to be returning to their traffickers
after being treated like criminals or illegal immigrants by
authorities, two charities said on Wednesday.

A quarter of the 1,015 identified or suspected child
trafficking victims in the care of local authorities went
missing at least once last year – 246 children compared to 167
in 2015 – according to research by ECPAT UK and Missing
People.

The child victims reported as missing from care disappeared
seven times on average. Their reasons for running away
included poor accommodation, fear of authorities and the
ongoing control of human traffickers, the charities said in a
report.

The findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at a time when a record number of
suspected child slaves are being referred to the government –
2,118 last year and up two-thirds on 2016 – campaigners said.

“Trafficked and unaccompanied children continue to be failed
by the system which should be safeguarding and protecting
them,” said Jane Hunter, senior research manager at Missing
People.

“(They) are particularly vulnerable, and may go back into a
highly exploitative situation to those they were trafficked
by.”

Britain’s Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said
that any missing child was cause for “serious concern”.

“We require all care placements to have clear procedures in
place to prevent children from going missing,” he said in a
statement.

About a fifth of the 975 trafficked or unaccompanied children
reported as missing from care in Britain last year have not
yet been found, according to the charities’ data.

“I can see why young people run away to their trafficker,” one
child who went missing from care was quoted anonymously as
saying in the report. “It is ‘better the devil you know’.”

Despite being hailed as a global leader in the anti-slavery
drive, Britain said in July it would review its landmark 2015
law amid criticism that it is not being used fully to jail
traffickers, drive firms to stop forced labour, or help
victims.

Many child victims of trafficking are convicted of crimes they
are forced to commit in captivity – such as drug offences on
cannabis farms where many Vietnamese teenagers are found – and
are later refused asylum, lawyers and campaigners have said.

Between 2015 and 2017, Britain denied asylum to 183 people
trafficked as children from nations such as Vietnam – double
the total for the previous three years – government data
obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation
revealed in July.

“Too often these children are treated as criminals or
immigration offenders, rather than vulnerable children
requiring support,” said Catherine Baker, ECPAT’s senior
research officer.

Britain is home to at least 136,000 modern slaves, according
to the Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free
Foundation – a figure 10 times higher than a government
estimate from 2013.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219170931-4fzv8/