In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Refugees and migrants
- Health and environment
- Education and discrimination
- Children's rights and elections
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Refugees and migrants
Almost 123,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh in two weeks, amid reports of children being beheaded, civilians being burned alive and homes being torched by soldiers. In recent weeks government counter-offensive operations have aimed to destroy rebels who attacked State forces on 25 August, causing people to flee en masse. The violence has been condemned by leaders across the world, but attacks on the Muslim minority Rohingya population continue, as the government takes steps to block UN humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s Rakhine state. As reports have spread of massacres and whole villages being burned, the government has taken to blaming rebels for torching their own homes, accusing them in turn of killing Buddhists and Hindus. As many as 400 people, 370 of whom are believed to have been Rohingya, have been killed during the government’s counter-offensive, with more and more civilians fleeing ongoing government “clearance operations” every day.
In the United States the Trump administration has moved to scrap a programme that protects hundreds of thousands of people who were brought into the country without documents as children. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) scheme was introduced by former president Barack Obama in 2012 and provides undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US before 2007 as children with work permits and protection from deportation. DACA has helped an estimated 800,000 young people, often protecting them from deportation to countries they hardly know. Congress will now have six months to find a solution before DACA officially ends, though the legislative body has been unable to pass any major legislation since Trump’s election, and has been bitterly divided over immigration in the past. Demonstrations quickly broke out after the announcement, including among high school students, with many walking out across Denver to protest the announcement, while separate rallies formed in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and elsewhere.
Health and environment
Police in northern India have launched an investigation following the deaths of as many as 49 children as a result of oxygen deprivation in a state-run hospital. This is the second case within a month in which a shortage of medical supplies is reported to have caused the deaths of dozens of children in Uttar Pradesh. In a separate incident, more than 60 children were reported to have died in a public hospital in the state in August amid accusations that oxygen supplies ran out because of unpaid bills. Police announced an investigation into the latest case after a government report blamed the chief medical officer and doctors for the deaths. The chief medical officer and chief medical superintendent were fired and criminal cases have been filed against both. The incidents have triggered widespread criticism of the funding of the health system in the country, which accounts for around one percent of GDP, among the lowest rates globally.
Weekly reported cholera cases in Yemen have fallen by a third, according to figures from UNICEF, showing that some progress in fighting the outbreak has been achieved. At least 550,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in the country since April this year, with more than half of them believed to be children. Almost 15 million people are cut off from safe water and access to basic healthcare in the country, while 385,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, putting them at higher risk of contracting diseases such as cholera. “Amid continued violence, water and sanitation systems are collapsing, and more than half of Yemen's health facilities are out of service”, warned a UNICEF spokesperson. The latest news comes as NGOs call for an independent inquiry into rights abuses in Yemen, where the proxy war has killed thousands and fuelled a humanitarian crisis. A cholera outbreak also continues in Somalia, where there have been 75,930 suspected cases as of August. Drought has displaced 766,000 people in the country since since November last year severely restricting access to safe drinking water.
Living near newly built roads in Ethiopia increases the rate of infant mortality, according to research from Queen Mary University of London and Trinity College Dublin. The study found that infant mortality rates increased by three percent for families living within five kilometres of a road, and that children under five living in these areas were also more likely to suffer from severe anaemia. The research was conducted to investigate the effect of toxic pollution illegally dumped along Ethiopia’s roads, which is reported to have increased since the country carried out a massive infrastructure improvement project between 1997 and 2010. The research builds on evidence linking toxic pollution to a rise in death and disease across developing countries. Among the poorest countries, toxic pollution is reported to account for more than three times the number of deaths and diseases caused by malaria, HIV and tuberculosis combined.
The loss of dense forest in Cambodia is associated with a higher risk of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection and fever in children, according to researchers at the National University of Singapore. The study, believed to be the largest-ever analysis of the links between deforestation, conservation and public health, surveyed more than 35,000 households in 1,766 communities between 2005 and 2014. The researchers found that a ten percent decrease in dense forest was associated with a 14 percent increase in diarrhoea among children under five. According to assistant professor Carrasco, who worked on the study, “deforestation in Cambodia is associated with increased risk of leading causes of childhood mortality and morbidity. This highlights the link between environmental degradation and health, and suggests that conserving forests could help in mitigating health burden.”
Education and discrimination
Children are set to go back to school this week in war-torn eastern Ukraine, but a ceasefire supposed to keep them safe has already been broken. The deal was struck between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in an effort to keep children safe when travelling to school and in their classrooms and was backed by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. More than 740 schools, amounting to one in five in eastern Ukraine, have been damaged or destroyed since the conflict began in 2014. In April, UNICEF reported that more than 200,000 children are living in the areas of conflict and are going to school despite the ongoing violence. It is estimated that a quarter of children in eastern Ukraine are suffering from severe trauma and fear and are in need of urgent, sustained psycho-social support after more than three years of violence. Behavioural changes in children as young as three include severe anxiety, bed-wetting, nightmares, aggressive behaviour and withdrawing from families and communities. Similar back-to-school ceasefires failed to hold in 2015 and 2016.
In the Czech Republic, an annual human rights report has shown that Roma children are continuing to be discriminated against at all levels in the education system. Despite the launch of a nationwide inclusive education project, the report found that Roma children were often being taught in separate classes comprising of only Roma students or in separate, inferior schools. The report also found that discrimination starts at the earliest stages of the education system, with some pre-schools refusing to accept Roma children. Concern was also raised about the large numbers of Roma children living in foster homes and the continued use and acceptance of corporal punishment. Despite physical punishment of children being banned in schools and in other institutions, it is often considered acceptable in the home and is tolerated by neighbours, according to the report, which also noted that social workers dealt with 2,393 cases of maltreated, neglected and abused children in 2016.
A French court has ruled that schools should provide an alternative to pork as part of school lunches in the interest of Muslim and Jewish children. The decision came after a right-wing local authority in Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy stopped providing a choice of school meals for children. On Monday, the Muslim Legal Defence League (LDJM) won its case against the local authority, with a court annulling the town hall’s 2015 decision to only provide one option at lunchtime. The judge said he was not concerned with religious considerations but ruled that the town’s failure to provide an alternative meal, which meant many local Muslim children went without lunch, was “not in keeping with the spirit of the international convention on the rights of children” and was not “in the interests of the children”. The French national consultative committee on human rights said the town hall’s action relied on an “erroneous interpretation of the principles of secularism and equality”. Town officials have said they plan to appeal against the decision.
Children's rights and elections
Around 24,000 16 and 17-year-olds in Estonia will be eligible to vote in local elections for the first time in October this year. Politicians have begun focusing on the interests of older teenagers in the run-up to the election, speaking directly to children in schools and public places to find out their priorities. However not all politicians have embraced the idea of empowering teenagers. While one candidate is promising a new skatepark to young voters, one conservative candidate stated that “politics should be kept out of schools”. Joosep Kään, a teenager working for the “Young elections watchdog” project, stressed in a national newspaper that "the right to vote will increase the motivation for young people to be informed and talk about issues", adding that some young people were already better equipped than adults to make sense of the huge amount of information presented to the modern electorate.
Children’s rights issues are also in the spotlight ahead of New Zealand’s upcoming election, with corporal punishment, investigations into abuse in state care and euthanasia all on the agenda. Attorney-General Chris Finlayson gave tentative approval to a bill to legalise euthanasia, saying it would not infringe basic human rights if enacted, noting, however, that the bill is not in line with age discrimination laws, as it is only reserved for over-18s. Finlayson added that the law could be passed if the age limit was reduced to 16, “or by removing the age criterion altogether”. Meanwhile some parties have called for the country’s “anti-smacking law” to be repealed, but the two largest political parties have ruled out a public vote on the matter, leaving the law which removed the legal defence of using "reasonable force" against children safe for now. Finally, every party except the National Party have backed calls for an inquiry into abuses in state care. Between the 1950s and 1990s more than 100,000 children and vulnerable adults, mostly Maoris, were taken from their families and placed in either children's homes or mental health institutions, with some suffering sexual, physical and psychological abuse. The survivors are calling for a public apology and full inquiry.
GIESCR: Human rights and social services campaigner
Application deadline: 13 September 2017
KIYO: Communications Manager
Application deadline: 17 September 2017
Location: Brussels, Belgium
THE LAST WORD
The UK's largest independent children's book publisher has apologised
for printing a puberty guide for boys which states that breasts exist “to make the girl look grown-up and attractive”.
The book notes that the biological function of breasts is to make milk for babies, acknowledging that not all women can - a position welcomed by some commentators. However it’s the apparent dual function that breasts have, according to author Alex Frith, that has been problematic, with critics saying the position “reinforces the sexualisation of breasts,” which they assert can be damaging to girls and women’s self-esteem. “It suggests that girls bodies are for boys to look at, which is not the kind of message we’d expect publishers of children’s books to want to send out,” said Trisha Lowther from the campaign group Let Books be Books.
In a statement Usborne Publishing clarified that it “strives to create meticulously researched and carefully written material for children and young adults”, but failed to explain how such a statement remained in the final version of one of its titles. The company said it will revise the content for reprinting, but maybe it should also revise its authors’ and editors’ knowledge of human anatomy, perhaps with a crash course on how not to bust up the readership.