As many as 6 million children throughout the Caribbean were in danger as Hurricane Matthew passed through the region. The storm has devastated the lives of 1.2 million people in Haiti alone. The rain has not abated causing school’s banks and shops to shut their doors. Unicef was there on the ground as it happened and had very little access to information, but was able to cobble together some kind of picture thanks to satellite phones and its NGO partners. The heaviest damage occurred in the South and the Grande Anse department with thousands of people losing their homes.
The situation is grim
Haiti’s three biggest cities (aside from Port Au Prince) Les Cayes, Aquin and Torbek were submerged under water and to put that into context, that is an estimated 300,000 people affected by flooding. These people have lost what little they had to begin with. Roads have disappeared and trees and cattle have all gone. The situation is similar in other parts of the country and if Unicef is to mount an effective response it will need at least US$ 2 million in order to deliver lifesaving assistance. As the impact of the storm becomes clearer additional needs with be required.
Supplies reaching children
The good news is all the supplies that Unicef sent before the storm hit were distributed amongst many of the most affected families. This is a good place to start from, but more needs to be done obviously and Unicef is working with both the government and its partners to cover the basic requirements of families that are in need. The current priority is making sure that children and their families have access to safe water so there is no outbreak of any epidemic. Emergency supplies such as hygiene kits, water bladders and chlorination tablets have been delivered to the site. The most important priority right now is keeping children safe from disease however, this is just the beginning.
Infrastructure is poor
Children’s lives have been affected in many ways. Education has been disrupted obviously because the schools have been closed with many acting as shelters. Children have also been separated from their families and there is almost no access to healthcare. Unicef sent two teams to the South to get a better picture of what is happening there. The whole of Southern Haiti has been cut off from the rest of the country after a bridge collapsed following relentless lashing by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s infrastructure is both fragile and sparse and the bridge is the only one that links the capital to the Southern peninsula.
Unicef says it is important to make children’s right central to school life because they not only provide a frame of reference for interpreting the world we live in, but it also improves educational outcomes. Kentish Town Primary School is taking advantage of a free Unicef refugee teaching resource dubbed “In Search of Safety.” The resource was developed as part of World Refugee Day. Anna, a year six teacher says the resource is essential. Prior to the resource being made available, many people were nervous about beginning a discussion. Today, children now understand that refugee rights are being disrespected.
All children have the same rights
James, the school’s head teacher says the resource has helped build a more cohesive community. He adds that students were horrified that this was happening because migrant children have the same rights as they do. The children now have a deep understanding not only of their rights but the rights of others. When the school was being assessed a group of student ambassadors showcased in an assembly examples of where classes were able to use what they had learned to tackle issues in their communities.
Students helping out in the community
Students have engaged in a number of community outreach programmes. For example, Willow Class helped out at a local wildlife reservation where they helped conserve turtles. Sycamore Class decided to tackle air pollution because they were worried about rising levels of nitrogen hydroxide. Beech Class participated in a sponsored “sleep out” and were able to raise £2740 for a couple of charities that work with the homeless.
Making the world a better place
As the students of Kentish Town Primary School learn more about children’s right’s, that knowledge has spread and parents have also begun to lend their input by suggesting additional rights-based campaigning activity. James concludes that the exercise is all about outcomes and empowering children to make the world a better place by helping to change it.
UNICEF says that since the beginning of the year, over 650 children have been recruited into South Sudanese armed groups. The agency is extremely worried that renewed fighting is likely to put at even greater risk, tens of thousands of children. As such UNICEF is calling for an immediate cessation of recruitment and the total release of all children being held by armed actors. Since the crisis first began in December 2013, it is estimated that 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups. UNICEF says the practice of recruiting children continues despite widespread political commitment to end it.
“The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth, speaking from Nairobi following a trip to Bentiu and Juba in South Sudan. “At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent.”
Last year UNICEF was responsible for the release of 1,775 former child soldiers, one of the largest such releases ever. Despite that success renewed conflict and recruitment in South Sudan will undo much of the progress that has been made in recent years. UNICEF has also drawn attention to the fact that grave violations are taking place in the youngest country in the world such as gender based violence which was already pervasive but because of the current crisis has greatly intensified.
Sexual exploitation continues
Mr. Forsyth says that the country’s children continue to have to endure horrific ordeals whilst there are plenty of reports which suggest the sexual violence against girls and women is widespread. Mr. Forsyth adds the systematic use of sexual exploitation, rape and abduction as a weapon of war in South Sudan must end now. UNICEF says that it is necessary for the agency to gain unconditional access for humanitarian interventions in Juba as well as other parts of the country, so that support, protection and assistance can be provided to children and women throughout the country. Forsyth adds that unless there is a fully operational humanitarian sector, the consequences will be catastrophic for children and their families.
Since Unicef launched its campaign to reunite migrant children that have been travelling unaccompanied with their families in the UK, many people have asked the question why have these children have been travelling alone in the first place. Rather unsurprisingly, it is the children who have been making the perilous journey so they can be safe explain why. Often these children simply have no one left. They have lost all their friends and family to violence and they worry they will be next.
Staying is more dangerous than leaving
The civil war raging in Syria is now entering into its sixth year. As the country’s towns and villages are bombed, the simple answer to the question is that it is safer for children affected by conflict to leave. One migrant child said he spoke to his family once a month and they were happy that he left Syria because a small mistake could result in death.
Children are forced to fight in the army and armed groups
Another Syrian refugee says that soldiers come into people’s homes and force them to join the army. More often than not they single out the youngest child and this is completely wrong. As a result, it is no surprise that children are fleeing the conflict so they can avoid forced recruitment.
Families could not leave together
Migration is an expensive proposition and this means that many families simply cannot leave together. Even if they do manage to leave together, often many families become separated. One refugee said he really wishes his family could have left with him but they haven’t been allowed to leave and they cannot afford to pay off smugglers. It is simply too expensive to pay for boats and with seven family members it would cost them £7,000 minimum to flee.
The simple answer
Families simply have no choice in letting their children go alone because it is just not safe for them to stay at home. If these children can make it to Europe they will have family waiting there for them. The problem they face is there is not a legal or safe way for children to escape to Europe. They are forced to make a dangerous journey either over land or by sea and place their lives in the hands of smugglers. Unicef hopes to change this and ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are eventually reunited with their families.
Migrant children making the dangerous journey to Europe as they seek to break free of a life of conflict or poverty face the threat of rape, forced labour and beatings as well as the risk of drowning in the Mediterranean, aid agency UNICEF says. Child migrants account for an increasing percentage of refugees, in particular those trying to reach Italy by sea from Libya UNICEF says in its latest report titled “Danger Every Step of the Way”. Of the near quarter million people who arrived in Europe by Sea this year, nearly one in three was a child.
“Every step of the journey is fraught with danger, all the more so for the nearly one in four children traveling without a parent or guardian,” UNICEF said.
The ratio was much greater on boats arriving from Libya where 90 per cent of children were unaccompanied.
UNICEF said that there was “strong evidence that criminal human trafficking networks were targeting the most vulnerable, in particular women and children. Italian social workers claim that both boys and girls are sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution while in Libya, and that some of the girls were pregnant when they arrived in Italy, having been raped,”
UNICEF says many of the children have been failed by the asylum systems which have become dramatically overstretched, however their cases should be a priority.
“All too often children are held behind bars – in detention facilities or in police custody – because of a lack of space in child protection centers and limited capacity for identifying alternative solutions,” it said.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the U.N.’s human rights chief has said he is extremely worried by the rise in migrant in Greece and Italy. Mr. Hussein has urged authorities to avoid confining children whilst their asylum requests were being processed. It can take as many as two years for authorities to evaluate a child’s asylum request. Once they reach Europe, refugees and migrants are often housed in former military barracks, sports halls or other temporary shelters. Children often have no access to schooling or emotional support.
This time last year, two major earthquakes struck Nepal within a couple of weeks of each other. They left nearly 9000 people dead and as many as 22,300 injured. The quakes resulted in thousands of homes being ripped apart and flattened schools and hospitals. More than a million children were left in danger. Unicef appealed to the British public to help fund an emergency response and they answered with a resounding £7 million in donations.
The money raised by the Unicef Nepal earthquake appeal enabled the agency to work with the Nepali government and other partners to help rebuild the lives of children affected by the disaster. The response included delivery of water and sanitation. Unicef was also able to offer children at risk access to health care and nutrition. The money raised was used to fund the protection of children and their families.
UK support made all the difference
Thanks to its British supporters, Unicef has made sure that over half a million children have been vaccinated against measles and rubella. Close to a million children have been issued with health kits that can be used to treat life threatening diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. 1.3 million people have been provided with clean water and nearly half a million people have been provided with toilets and sanitation facilities. Nearly 180,000 children and their families have been given access to psychosocial care and support.
Unicef would like to say a huge thank you to the British public as well as its government for lending their support to the children of Nepal affected by the earthquake and being there when they needed it most
Actor Michael Sheen who serves as Unicef UK ambassador recently returned from a trip to Lebanon and Jordan, where he met children that have been affected by the region’s ongoing conflict. In the video you can see what Michael has to say about his visit. It is estimated that as many as 3.7 million children from Syria have been born since the conflict first started over five years ago. This means the only things they have ever known is violence, fear and displacement.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think that millions of Syrian children have known nothing but war, death and destruction their entire lives,” said Michael. “As a father, meeting children and families who have fled Syria and just hearing their stories was incredibly moving, so I can’t begin to imagine the impact on the children themselves.”
“I met children like Omaymah, who was forced to flee her home in Syria and now lives in a refugee camp in Jordan. Just 13 years old, Omaymah now tirelessly campaigns for girls’ education, and works with her friends to warn young girls in the camp of the dangers of child marriage.”
“I was inspired by the courage, hope and optimism of Omaymah and the other children I met. It is children like Omaymah and her friends who are Syria’s future, and we must do all we can to help them rebuild their lives. Ensuring all Syrian children have access to the education and protection they so rightly deserve is the first step on this journey. That’s why protecting children and the schools that keep them safe must be a priority when the world responds to emergencies. It’s time for us to do all we can to give Syrian children the chance of a brighter future.”
Unicef working to keep children safe
Unicef is one of the few aid agencies working to keep children who live in Syria and counties that neighbour it, safe. It is estimated that 80 per cent of Syria’s population of children or 8.4 million kids are directly impacted by the war, either as refugees in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. Unicef’s Regional Director for the Middle East Dr Peter Salma says that violence is now common throughout Syria, in homes, hospitals, parks, clinics and places of worship. Millions of children are living in poverty which means their childhood is one deprivation and loss.
Since 2011 as a result of the fighting in Syria, approximately 8 million children have been impacted. These kids have had to endure unspeakable violence and abuse. For some children the horrors of war are the only thing they have ever known. It is estimated that as many as two million Syrian children have had to flee their homes with the number continuing to rise.
Make a New Year’s resolution to help
New Year’s Day is traditionally the time when most of us make resolutions. This year UNICEF is asking people to make a resolution for the children of Syria. The aid agency wants people to help them make 2016 a year of hope for children affected by the civil war after nearly 5 years of despair. Just like everybody else, Syrian children have hopes and dreams.
Children are losing access to education
For example one six year old girl named Fatima wants to be an artist. Unfortunately she and her family have had to flee their home after the city they lived in was seized by the Islamic State. The new school that Fatima now attends in Western Syria is now stretched to the limit and is in dire need of supplies and space to teach in. The education system in Syria is under intense pressure to accommodate children like Fatima. After nearly half a decade of conflict UNICEF estimates that 2 million children cannot attend school with hundreds of thousands at risk of dropping out.
UNICEF is doing its bit
UNICEF is doing what it can with its local partners to address the situation. The agency is working in areas where there are large numbers of displaced children and has been able to rehabilitate 600 schools which has resulted in 300 new class rooms. UNICEF is also distributing essential school supplies such as books to as many as 3 million children.
Give children the opportunity to follow their dreams
Fatima was extremely pleased to get her school supplied for her first day back at school. She said the most exciting thing about the day was the bag. With help from ordinary people like you, UNICEF can give children such as Fatima a better life with the ability to fulfill their dreams. All of us can do so much more to help the children in Syria. In 2016 why not make the resolution to help UNICEF keep the children of Syria safe and help children like Fatima have the opportunity to follow their dreams.
In a new video Sir Alex Ferguson reminisces about his experiences with Manchester United and David Beckham and praises the work they have done for UNICEF to help protect children that are vulnerable around the world. The interview was filmed following the Match for Children which took place with a galaxy of footballing stars at Old Trafford and raised valuable funds for UNICEF.
“Even back then, I could see how interested and affected David Beckham was by what he saw with Unicef,” said Sir Alex .”Now 15 years later, to see how David continues to support Unicef as an Ambassador and through his 7 Fund makes me very proud.”
Sir Alex made a triumphant return to Old Trafford alongside David Beckham and the rest of the Great Britain and Ireland XI for the Match for Children, beating the Rest of the World Team led by Luis Figo and Carlo Ancelotti 3-1. Earlier in the year Beckham launched the 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund and has committed to lending his influence, voice and connections to raise money and rally for lasting change for children. The Match For Children was the final leg of an incredible tour which saw Beckham play seven football matches across seven continents for a documentary that will be broadcast on the BBC this Christmas
Furniture retailer IKEA is conducting its annual Soft Toys for Education Campaign until 19th December from which proceeds from the sale of soft toys will go towards helping fund educational projects all over the world run by Save the Children or UNICEF. Thousands of people entered a competition to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to have their doodles recreated as a limited edition toy which will be sold globally. Ten winners were picked one of whom was Olivia Wildman from Essex who drew a fluffy skunk called Stinky. Stinky joins a wide selection of other toys including a scary dinosaur and tiger amongst others.
More than 80 toys to choose from
The campaign IKEA is running is very simple, for every soft toy, and other children’s item such as books, card games or dressing up clothes sold up to 19th December 2015, the company will donate €1 to support educational programmes operated by UNICEF and Save the Children around the world. There are over 80 toys to choose from and prices start from as low as £1 which means it couldn’t be any easier to help out a child this winter.
The money raised does a lot of good
This year the campaign is hoping to raise €700,000 in the UK and Ireland to add to a combined €77 million that has been raised since the campaign began in 2003. The money raised so far has benefited over 11 million children through 99 projects in 46 different countries. €100,000 is enough to enable Save the Children to provide 35 schools in the Philippines for kids with disabilities gain access to quality and accessible education. With the same amount of money, UNICEF would be able to construct four fully equipped pre-schools in Madagascar which have access to clean water and toilet facilities.