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UN ramps up aid to children who remain as four million have now fled Venezuela,

The number of people who have left Venezuela to escape the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis, has reached some four million, the UN announced on Friday.

In a joint statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), described the scale of the exodus as “staggering”, with the number of displaced people jumping by a million over a seven-month period, from November 2018.

“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries”, said Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”

Most of the Venezuelans who have fled, are being hosted in Latin America: more than half are in Colombia and Peru, followed by Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.

Caracas, Venezuela, a UNICEF representative speaks to a mother who brought her young daughter for nutrition screening. (3 June 2019) photo credit: UNICEF/Valescuez

Child health ‘grim’ and getting worse: UNICEF

For many of those who have remained in Venezuela, the situation is dire, and around a third of children in the country need help accessing basic nutrition, health and education services, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.

The UN agency announced that it has ramped up aid since the beginning of the year, in the form of 55 tons of health supplies distributed to 25 hospitals in the most affected states of Caracas, Miranda, Zulia, Bolivar and Táchira. They include midwifery kits, antibiotics and malaria treatment.

“As the country grapples with the impact of a devastating economic and political crisis, we will continue to provide its most vulnerable children, wherever they are, with the humanitarian support they need”, said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication. “Children’s needs must always remain above politics.”

On her return from a recent visit, Ms. Escudero said that people in Venezuela had told her the health situation was “grim”, adding that, because of a shortage of medicine, and an exodus of many doctors and nurses, medical centres are running at minimum capacity.

Many mobile health units and ambulances are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, she said, and, with worsening fuel shortages, some pregnant women cannot even make it to health centres. “For a country that made remarkable progress for decades on the quality of its health care, this is quite dramatic.”

The UN agencies operating in Venezuela have urged donors to increase funding, so that they can scale up their response to the crisis. IOM said that the humanitarian Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) launched last December is only 21 percent funded. UNICEF said that flexible funding is needed to allow the agency to reach children in need with quality support.

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New UN bullying report calls for ‘safe, inclusive’ schools for all children

The emotional and physical pain brought on by bullying can be excruciating, yet this behavior continues to abound in schools globally, according to a new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that is calling for all children to have access to a "safe, inclusive” learning environment.

 

unescpub bullying19UNESCO’s report, Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying, released on Tuesday at the 2019 Education World Forum in London, reveals that nearly one-in-three boys and girls have been bullied at least once at school over the last month, and a similar proportion have been affected by physical violence.

Overall, says the report, physical bullying is the biggest problem in most regions, but in North America and Europe, psychological bullying is the most common, followed by sexually-related bullying.

Online and smartphone bullying on the rise

Physical bullying is more common among boys, while psychological bullying is more prevalent among girls. Meanwhile, online and mobile phone bullying is on the rise. Children perceived as different in any way from the norm, are the most likely to be bullied, with physical appearance being the most common cause followed by race, nationality or skin colour.

Bullying must be addressed because it significantly effects children’s mental health, quality of life and academic achievement, the report states.

Frequently bullied children are nearly three times more likely to feel shunned and more than twice as likely to miss school. Their educational-outcomes decline, and they are more likely to leave after finishing secondary school.

 

 

UNESCO-recommended measures to lower school violence and reduce bullying:

  • A commitment to a safe, positive school and classroom environment.
  • Effective reporting and monitoring systems.
  • Evidence-based programmes and interventions.
  • Teacher training and support.
  • Support and referral for affected students.
  • Student empowerment and participation.
  • Better political leadership.
  • Robust legal and policy frameworks.

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Rising human trafficking takes on ‘horrific dimensions’: almost a third of victims are children

A new UN report published on Monday shows that human trafficking is on the rise and taking on “horrific dimensions”, with sexual exploitation of victims the main driver. Children now account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked, and far more girls are detected than boys.

The study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, draws on information from 142 countries, examining trafficking trends and patterns. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said that "human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters," citing child soldiers, forced labour and sexual slavery as examples.

While the average numbers of reported victims had fluctuated during the earlier years for which UNODC had collected data, the global trend has shown a steady increase since 2010. Asia and the Americas are the regions which have seen the largest increase in the numbers of victims detected, which may be explained by improved methods of detecting, recording and reporting data on trafficking – or a real increase in the number of victims.

Most victims of trafficking detected outside their region of origin are from East Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa: whilst there has been an increase in the number of convictions for trafficking in these regions, the study concluding that large areas of impunity still exist in many Asian and African countries, and conviction rates for trafficking remain very low.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form in European countries, whilst in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, forced labour is the main factor driving the illicit trade. Women and girls make up most trafficking victims worldwide: almost three-quarters of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 35 per cent (women and girls) are trafficked for forced labour.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

As some 7,000 mostly-Honduran migrants continue their journey northwards toward the United States, governments must prioritize the needs of migrant children when it comes to applying immigration laws and procedures, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.

Highlighting the vulnerability of children on the move, the agency advised all transit and destination countries, to consider alternatives to immigration detention.

According to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), thousands of men, women, and children, including unaccompanied children, are still making their way through Mexico toward the southern border of the US.

Their journey is arduous, especially when opting for irregular migration routes. The dangers of inclement weather, including soaring temperatures and lack of shelter are high, especially for children, say UN agencies.

Some have already fallen ill or are suffering from dehydration, said UNICEF, while the danger of extortion by criminal smuggling gangs, or threats of robbery and sexual violence are also present; perils from which many are already fleeing.

‘When I saw our house burning…it was time to flee’ Eduardo, 16

Eduardo, a sixteen-year-old from Honduras, told UNHCR that the gang violence in his hometown of Colon had become so intense, he felt he had no other option but to leave the country.

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Act now to save children from rise in climate-driven extreme weather – UNICEF

Governments are being pressed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to act now to safeguard younger generations from the immediate and long-term impacts of so-called “extreme weather events.”
 

The devastating floods in southern India, wildfires ravaging the western United States and the record-breaking heatwaves baking countries across much of the northern hemisphere, are putting children in immediate danger while also jeopardizing their future, the agency said in a press release issued on Friday.

 “In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable, and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes.

“Over the past few months, we have seen a stark vision of the world we are creating for future generations. As more extreme weather events increase the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, it is children who will pay the highest price.”

These extreme weather events during June and July, causing injury, death, environmental damage and other losses.

UNICEF stated that although individual weather events cannot specifically be attributed to climate change, their increasing frequency and severity correspond with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate.

These conditions have numerous impacts on children. For example, they contribute to the increased spread of “childhood killers” such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea, UNICEF explained.

Heatwaves put children at risk, with infants and younger children more likely to die or suffer from heatstroke, while floods threaten their survival and development through causing injuries or death by drowning, or compromising water supply and damaging sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, poor families are particularly affected by drought, which can lead to crop failure, livestock deaths and loss of income.

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 UNICEF infographic on child malnutrition 

pie chartmore data from UNICEF 

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UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

As part of his final global update, the United Nations human rights chief on Monday voiced his deep concern over recently-adopted United States border protection policies that have seen hundreds of migrant children forcibly separated from their parents.

“In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in his opening remarks to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the last session before his four-year term expires in August. 

Mr. Zeid said that the American Association of Pediatrics in the US, had called it a cruel practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences”.

“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said, calling on the United States to immediately put a stop to the policy, and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In a statement issued on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres defended the rights of migrant and refugee children, but did not single out the US.

As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law,” said a statement issued by his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

“Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved,” said the statement.

The human rights situation in the US was one of the many topics to be discussed at the latest Human Rights Council session, which runs through 6 July.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his deep concern about a bill presented to Parliament in Hungary last month which, if adopted, would effectively criminalize human rights monitoring at borders and within border zones, as well as criminalizing the provision of information, legal aid and assistance to migrants.

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Venezuela: Economic woes worsening malnutrition among children, warns UNICEF

Amid growing food insecurity and rising malnutrition among children on the back of a protracted economic crisis in Venezuela, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday called on all actors for rapid and coordinated assistance efforts to reach those most in need.

“While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food,” said the UN agency in a news release, Friday, underlining the severity of the situation.

According to UNICEF, national reports in 2009 (the most recent official figures) showed that the prevalence of wasting (low weight to height ratio) in children under five was, at the time, 3.2 per cent.However, more recent non-official studies indicate “significantly higher rates” of as much as 15.5 per cent, and an additional 20 per cent of children at risk of malnutrition.

Similarly, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 (a comprehensive report on the subject prepared by a number of UN agencies) suggested that undernourishment – a measure of hunger indicating the proportion of population with inadequate energy consumption – in Venezuela rose from 10.5 per cent in 2004-2006 to 13 per cent in 2014-2016.

[ read the full story at UN News ]

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‘We are all at risk’ when humanity’s values are abandoned; UN honours memory of Holocaust victims

Calling on the world to “stand together against the normalization of hate, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed in his message for the International Day dedicated to honouring Holocaust victims that everyone has a responsibility to quickly and decisively resist racism and violence.

Mr. Guterres recalled that the International Day, marked annually on 27 January, was created to honour the memory of six million Jewish men, women and children that perished in the Holocaust and countless others lost their lives as cruelty convulsed the world.Yet, decades since the Second World War, there is still the persistence of anti Semitism and an increase in other forms of prejudice.Citing Neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups as among the main purveyors of extreme hatred, the UN chief said that too often, vile views are moving from the margins to the mainstream of societies and politics.

“Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at risk,” stressed the Secretary-General.

[ read the full story at UN News ]

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Despite drop in under-five mortality rate, 7,000 newborns die every day – UN report

More must be done to stop babies from dying the day they are born, United Nations agencies said in a new report issued Thursday, which argued that life-saving know-how and technologies must be made readily available – particularly in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – where they are most needed.
Although the number of children dying before age five is at a new low – 5.6 million in 2016 compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000 – the proportion of newborn deaths during that period has jumped from 41 to 46 per cent – or 7,000 babies.

This is according to theLevels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, released today by the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) – comprised of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the Population Division in the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs.

“The lives of 50 million children under-five have been saved since 2000, a testament to the serious commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths,” said Stefan Swartling Peterson, the UN Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Chief of Health, in a joint press statement.

But without a greater effort to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. “We have the knowledge and technologies that are required – we just need to take them where they are most needed,” he added.

Current trends suggest that between 2017 and 2030, 30 million newborns will die within first 28 days of life. As such, the agencies stress that measures must be taken to achieve universal health coverage and ensure that more newborns survive and thrive, including by serving marginalized families.


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Fathers play a critical role in childhood learning

16 June 2017 – A majority of children aged between three- and four-years-old in 74 countries, or about 40 million, have fathers who do not play or engage in early learning activities with them, according to a new study released today by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“What these numbers show us is that father's are struggling to play an active role in their children's early years,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy, in a statement on the study, released as some 80 countries around the world are set to celebrate Father's Day this coming Sunday.

“We must break down the barriers that prevent fathers from providing their babies and young children a conducive environment for them to thrive, including love, play, protection and nutritious food,”

Laurence Chandy
UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy

The UNICEF analysis examined whether children aged three and four engaged in any play and early learning activities with their fathers, such as having their father read to the children, tell them stories or sing with them; taking them outside, playing with them; and naming, counting or drawing with them.

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