Friday, May 18, 2012

Child Marriage: A Human Trafficking Problem?

Days before law professor Michele Goodwin was set to speak in Chicago about why child marriage persists widely in India despite almost a century of legislation, a heart-warming story made the rounds.

Laxmi Sargara, an 18-year-old who was married to another child when she was a baby, rebelled when her in-laws came to take her away from her family. She eventually got the marriage annulled – though that may not be quite the right term for an act that wasn’t legal in the first place.

Advocates against child marriage hailed her bravery. But in the paper that Ms. Goodwin presented last Friday, she noted that the triumphs that catch international attention represent just a fraction of child marriages, which are still extremely widespread in India.

According to a major recent survey by the Ministry of Health, which covered 700,000 households between 2007 and 2008, 43% of the married women in the age group of 20-24 had been child brides. The legal age for a girl to marry in India is 18 – marriages below that age are considered child marriage.

“There is real competition in law in India, between federal law and the law of custom,” said Ms. Goodwin, in an interview last week. Read more

SRI LANKA: Thousands Missing Three Years After War Ends

COLOMBO, 18 May 2012 (IRIN) - Three years after the government of Sri Lanka declared an end to decades of civil conflict with separatist rebels, thousands of people are still missing, according to the UN and Sri Lankan activists.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 5,671 reported cases of wartime-related disappearance in Sri Lanka, not counting people who went missing in the final stages of fighting from 2008 to 2009.

Hostilities between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil state for nearly 30 years, ended on 18 May 2009.

“It’s been almost three years. My son went missing on 14 May [2009] and I have not heard from him ever since. He was not a member of LTTE or [any] other group. He was just a normal Tamil civilian,” said Aarati*, 56, a mother of three in the northern town of Kilinochchi, in the former war zone. Another son has been missing since 1993.

Ganeshan Thambiah from the town of Jaffna, also in the north, told IRIN he has lost hope. “My son has gone missing for three years. It hurts me a lot but he is probably dead.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

PAKISTAN: Measles Outbreak Linked to Conflict

PESHAWAR, 16 May 2012 (IRIN) - The recent outbreak of measles which claimed the lives of at least 12 children and one adult in Pakistan's North Waziristan's tribal agency is directly linked to conflict between militants and the army, according to local experts.

”Long curfews, road blockades and also the power cuts that take place mean the vaccines we receive expire," said Muhammad Ali Shah, who heads the main hospital in Miramshah, the headquarters of the agency. "The measles vaccine needs to be stored at a proper temperature.”

The hospital, Shah said, was receiving 5-10 cases of measles daily. “This is unusual," he told IRIN. "We do not usually see more than one or two deaths a year due to measles.”

North Waziristan, a poor area bordering Afghanistan, is a stronghold of the Taliban and affiliated militants. It is largely inaccessible, which makes it difficult for vaccination teams to move and for other humanitarian organizations to operate safely.

“We are basically on our own here,” Shah added, noting that it was unclear how many people were affected by the virus in remote mountainous areas. Read more

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NEPAL: HIV Widows on the Edge

RAKAM, 15 May 2012 (PlusNews) - Widows living with HIV in Nepal’s remote hill districts in some of the country’s poorest and vulnerable communities face a particularly bleak future.

“My husband died four years ago. We had to sell our cattle and farm to pay his medical bills,” 32-year-old Sumi Karki* told IRIN in the tiny village of Rakam in Dailekh District, about 700km northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Infected by her husband, a former labour migrant to India, she has no idea how she will care for her three children in the future, much less pay for their schooling.

Most of Rakam’s more than 2,000 impoverished residents depend on subsistence agriculture and remittances from relatives working abroad as migrant labourers to get by.

Now, struggling to put food on the table, Karki cannot even afford the travel costs to Surkhet, the nearest town, to check her CD4 count (a measure of immune system strength). Read more

Investing in Nutrition Security is Key to Sustainable Development

This article, by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, is reprinted from G8: The Camp David Summit – Route 2012: The Road to Recovery, courtesy of the G8 Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.

The condition known as stunting – the irreversible result of chronic nutritional deprivation during the most critical phase of child development – may be among the least understood and least prioritized development issues today. It represents a huge moral and practical challenge. It is also one of the greatest opportunities for G8 members to help developing countries – and their children – to reach their potential. The news that hundreds of millions of children are at risk – of death, of a life shorter than that of their peers, of poorer cognitive capacity and thus less ability to learn in school and earn as adults – should command headlines and compel immediate action. And yet the condition that affects these children – stunting – is still relatively unknown among many development professionals, health and education ministers – even among medical practitioners. Read more

PAKISTAN: Water Woes Compounded by Internal Disputes

KARACHI, 16 May 2012 (IRIN) - The dead fish recently washed up on the shores of Lake Keenjhar, the largest fresh water lake in Pakistan, shocked nearby villagers in Thatta District in the southern province of Sindh.

“We saw the dead water life after a recent storm. It seems contaminated water came into the lake from a drain,” Zahir Ahmed, a villager said. “We have been trying to get water from other places, but it is hard work."

“The water flowing in from one drain is now dark and impure. It used to be crystal clear,” Jehangir Durrani, natural resources manager for the Worldwide Fund for Nature at Keenjhar, told IRIN.

An inquiry by Sindh Environment Protection Agency is under way, but has not yet produced definitive results. Concern is high since the Lake Keenjhar is the main source of water for Karachi, but is some 70km away.

“We are awaiting a detailed report so we know exactly what happened,” said Mir Hussain Ali, the Sindh environment secretary.

The Keenjhar episode is not the only case of water contamination in the country. Concern has in the past arisen over the pollution of other water bodies in Sindh, including the Lake Manchar. Read more

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ideas to make the world a better place for child

CHENNAI : Icubed – Ideate, Implement, Inspire, the national social entrepreneurship competition spearheaded by the NGO Bhumi, can definitely be summed up as a battle of ideas for social change.
A school within a university campus, building entrepreneurship through a craft centre, a children’s magazine to express bottled up emotions, speak up and act now against child abuse at schools – these were some ideas that entered the final fray on Sunday as the finalists presented their take on what could possibly make the world a better place for children.
The commitment, conviction and clarity of thought projected by the ideators was inspiring, making it a tough call for the panelists to choose among them.
A magazine for school children from Chennai Schools – a platform for them to air their bottled up emotions, was an idea presented by Srinivasa Ramanujam, a research scholar from IIT Madras. Read more

Children in Pakistan

According to Pakistani authorities and the UN, at least 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have now been registered as a result from recent fighting and on-going military operations against the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat, Buner, and Lower Dir districts. Refugee families are often made up of only women and children, the older men staying behind to care for their homes and crops. UN humanitarian chief John Holmes issued a desperate appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars to help those who have fled the war, warning that the U.N. can only sustain its current aid efforts for one month. Photographers in the area have captured many powerful images of those affected, some of the most striking focused on children, from which I've collected 38 here for you. (38 photos total). Read more

No Proper Education Facilities for Displaced Children: Report

ISLAMABAD - Educational facilities for children displaced from Khyber Agency owing to military operations are scarce and often inaccessible, educational services along with psychosocial support are urgently required for them as mothers report undesirable change in the children’s behaviour after displacement.

A recent report of Save the Children on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) displaced from Khyber Agency highlights that 56 per cent of respondents shared that IDP families do not have their children enrolled in schools. Displaced children are particularly vulnerable to threats such as child labour, violence, neglect and abuse, warns the report. ‘67 percent of mothers reported undesirable change in the children’s behaviour after displacement thus, psychosocial support is urgently required for children who have been affected by the displacement and child protection programmes to assist children suffering from psychosocial stress and behavioural problems must be initiated’.

According to UNICEF, 50 per cent of the IDP population are children, 12 per cent of the displaced are younger than two while 28 per cent are younger than five. Humanitarian agencies need additional funding to provide relief to IDPs both within Jalozai and especially in the surrounding off-camp areas where the vast majority is residing, it added. Read more

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

PAKISTAN: Emotional Abuse of Girl Child is Not an Exception

It is hard to detect and substantiate emotional abuse of female child because of many reasons, including a clear lack of an accepted and consistent definition and least importance of the subject matter in feudal and patriarchal societies.  It is widely recognized that verbal abuse of girl child is much prevalent and occurs in a range of relationships and social settings, all around the world.  However, the intensity of such phenomenon is much higher in poor and developing countries, such as Pakistan.

Farhana Rasheed, a women rights activist, observed that, “It is really difficult to quantify or determine the prevalence of the emotional abuse of girl child in our society as very rarely girls report such cases.  A major reason of lack of reporting is the involvement of family members in committing emotional abuse”.  The women rights activist further remarked, “In many poor and developing countries, including Pakistan, people in general congratulate the parents, if the newly born baby is a boy;   however, the birth of a baby girl has never been considered as an occasion of pleasure or distribution of food or sweets among relatives, friends and colleagues’’.  Farhana Rasheed further said that a son means high dividend in future for present investment; while the girl is just a big responsibility and expense.Read more