Afghanistan signs pact with UN to prevent recruitment of child soldiers

Afghanistan, 30 January 2011  – The United Nations and the Government of Afghanistan today signed an agreement in which the country made a commitment to protect children affected by armed conflict and to prevent the recruitment of minors into the national armed forces.“Today we come together to undertake a big step for a better future for the children of Afghanistan,” Zalmai Rassoul, Afghanistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who represented the Government at the signing of the agreement in Kabul with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.Also signing the document was Staffan de Mistura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-Gener...

AFGHANISTAN: Bleak outlook for food security in 2011

KABUL, 29 December 2010 - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) plans to assist 7.3 million people in Afghanistan in 2011 but only has enough funding to feed the most vulnerable for a few months, and needs US$400 million to continue its humanitarian activities next year. WFP appealed to donors for urgent funding through a Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) launched on 5 December with the aim of making up a food shortfall of 103,600 tons (costing about $157 million) until June. The UN Secretary-General warned in a December report that the funding shortfall could affect all WFP projects, including school feeding and food-for-work. “If additional support cannot be obtained, WFP will have ...

INDONESIA: Lots of food - and malnutrition - in the east

KUPANG, 20 December 2010  - A lack of trained health staff, treatments and health promotion make Indonesia’s eastern province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) one of the country’s most food insecure, despite the general availability of food.In the drought-prone mostly rural province of 4.5 million people spread out over 50 islands, the average per capita income is US$265 a year.“Food is not the main problem here,” said UN Food and Agriculture Organization food security officer, Andrey Damaledo, in Kupang, one of 20 in NTT. “We have pumpkin, cassava, banana here. Locals define food as corn or rice. Diversification [of diets] is what is needed.”Even rice and maize harvests have st...

Cash Grants Get Youngsters Back into School

Manila, 9th December  2010 (IPS) - Give the poor cash and they will spend it on things other than their most basic needs. Or with no thought for their future, let alone their children’s, they just might indulge in wasteful spending. Right?Wrong. Marilyn Vargas, 42, says the conditional cash transfer (CCT) poverty alleviation scheme, of which her family is among the beneficiaries in the Philippines, is no dole-out. Thanks to the CCT, she says, one of her four children, now 14, has been able to go back to school after a two-year poverty-induced hiatus. And thanks to the conditions that go with the scheme, such as attending monthly family development sessions, she considers herself wiser...

For Maternal Health, Go Door to Door

Kathmandu, 16th December 2010 (IPS) - For the last 17 years, Keshari Maharjan has been going door to door in the outskirts of the Nepali capital to tell people about the services available at health centres in their communities, as well as about how to prevent certain diseases. It hasn’t always been easy for Maharjan and other community health volunteers like her. Indeed, she says, "It was very difficult those days when people suspected (us) of various ill intentions." Yet they must have been doing something right all these years. According to Maharjan herself, she has noticed that there has been improved awareness about sanitation, diseases, and health centre services in the la...

Asia-Pacific governments agree to speed progress towards the elimination of new HIV infections among newborns

VIENTIANE, Lao PDR, 26 November 2010 – Asia Pacific governments and UN officials have agreed to accelerated efforts towards eliminating the transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborn children at a meeting in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.This week’s 8th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Prevention of Parents-to-Child-Transmission (PPTCT) Task Force in Vientiane was an opportunity to highlight the encouraging progress that has been made around the region to reduce the number of babies becoming infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission.In India, authorities are moving towards universal antenatal testing while China is expanding the package of routine services for...

BANGLADESH: Piloting community treatments for severe malnutrition

Dhaka, 21 November 2010 - Community-based treatments may hold the key to whittling down high rates of severe acute malnutrition among children under five in Bangladesh. A pilot scheme on this is being run by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which hopes to evaluate it by May 2011.Half a million children suffer from severe “wasting” - or acute malnutrition - in Bangladesh. Due to starvation or disease they are far under the weight of healthy children their height, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the UN and the government. The public health system has failed these children, according to a 2008 government report on the treatment of severely malnourished children.“Active ca...

Lebanon: World Vision takes child participation further – all the way to the UN

Lebanon, 17 November 2010 - For the first time under the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, a government is having to respond to human rights recommendations made by children, based on their own experiences.Lebanon was reviewed at the UPR session in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. Several of the recommendations made were based on a report prepared by four World Vision Children’s Councils in Lebanon. The UPR process examines the human rights record of every country, and governments must respond officially before the international community to all recommendations presented.Hassan, a 16-year-old from one of the Children’s Councils that wrote the report, attended the r...

YEMEN: Very high rates of child malnutrition in conflict zone

SANAA, 2 November 2010 - A new survey reports very high levels of child malnutrition in Yemen's conflict-hit northern governorate of Saada, particularly in districts that have seen the worst of the fighting. The rate of malnutrition equals that of a survey in Southern Sudan earlier this year which attracted media attention as discovering “the hungriest place on Earth”.A UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)-supported survey carried out by the Ministry of Public Health and Population showed that 45 percent of the 26,246 children aged 6-59 months who were screened in five districts in western Saada (the governorate has 15 districts in all) were suffering from acute malnutrition."In one area, the pro...

PAKISTAN: No way home for poorest displaced

QUETTA, 31 October 2010 - Thousands of flood victims in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province, say they are stranded and unable to get home.Most of the displaced arrived in mid-August looking for relief aid after floods inundated districts in eastern Balochistan and neighbouring Sindh province. More than two months later, they say they do not have the means to get back.Inadequate transport arrangements by the provincial governments, combined with the fact that many who left homes in a panic did not carry much cash, are key factors in the slow rate of return. Of the 61,000 displaced who arrived in Balochistan, Pakistan’s poorest province, nearly 90 percent are st...

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