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Sexual abuse of elderly likely to ‘grow dramatically’, UN expert says

INTERNATIONAL, 13 June 2019, Human Rights - As the world prepares to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this Saturday, the UN independent human rights expert mandated with defending the rights of older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, has stressed that they are often victims of sexual abuse and rape, although it remains rarely detected, reported or exposed.  

“The sexual abuse and rape of older persons is a subject rarely discussed, but nevertheless is a reality,” said Ms. Kornfeld-Matte, in a statement issued on Thursday, calling on everyone to “be more attentive and report suspected cases of abuse of older people”. 

“Invisible” and “still taboo”, she noted that, “with the ageing of our societies, this problem is expected to grow dramatically” and that “without enough data, statistics and studies, we will not have even an estimate of the dimensions involved.” 

The human rights expert explained that one of the challenges of sexual abuse is the perpetuation of the myth that it’s mainly carried out by strangers. “Sadly, most abusers are family members, relatives or other confidants typically in caring positions,” she emphasized.  

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte noted that “negative stereotypes, such as that older persons aren’t sexual beings, their greater dependency on others, potential divided loyalty to staff members or residents, are unique barriers to reporting, detecting and preventing sexual assault in nursing homes”.  

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte.

Despite severe health consequences, efforts to prevent and address abuse remain inadequate. For example, the expert explained, “forensic and other criminal evidence can be lost by mistaken compassion or shame of others who desire to make the older person comfortable instead of calling the police”. 

To remedy this, she called on everyone to increase their vigilance, noting that the behavior of an older person, even if they have confusion or dementia, will show when something is wrong.  

“Let me reiterate that awareness and attentiveness is critical,” she stressed. “Not only relatives and confidants but also staff in hospitals and care facilities must be aware of the existence of sexual assault and that it is their duty as care providers to report alleged or suspected sexual assault in a timely manner”.  

She called on more education, training, data and research to address the knowledge gaps around incidence, reporting and investigations, in order to better prevent and respond to the scourge.  

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Second Ebola death confirmed in Uganda as UN health agency mulls global emergency call

INTERNATIONAL, 13 June 2019, Health - Together with Uganda, UN humanitarian agencies are racing to contain deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) there, after the announcement that it has claimed a second victim.

The development, which is likely linked to the ongoing outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), comes ahead of a key meeting on Friday at the World Health Organization (WHO), to decide whether to announce an international public health emergency.

“The second of three persons who were confirmed Ebola positive has passed away,” said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic in Geneva. “Obviously, it is very important that the Ministry of Health together with the WHO go quickly to this area where the cases have been identified to make sure that all those who may have been in contact with these people have been monitored.”

According to the Ugandan authorities, which confirmed the outbreak on Tuesday, the victims are a five-year-old boy from Uganda and his 50-year-old grandmother.

The youngster fell ill  after  visiting DRC’s Mabalako  Health  Zone  to  attend  the burial of his grandfather, a confirmed Ebola-sufferer, who died in the community on 1 June.

The boy and his family then returned to Uganda through the Bwera border on Monday, where relatives sought help at Kagando hospital for symptoms including vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.

Health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness and he was transferred to an Ebola treatment centre (ETC) at Bwera, Kasese.

He died on Tuesday evening before being given a dignified burial, according to the Ugandan authorities, which noted that in addition to the boy’s grandmother who succumbed to Ebola virus, his three-year-brother has also tested positive for the disease.

A fourth suspect case – a 23-year-old man from Mukungu village in Katwe - is also awaiting lab confirmation and some 27 contacts of the victims have been identified so far, the health ministry statement added.

Response plan measures include ban on public gatherings

The Ugandan authorities also said that the Minister of Health, WHO’s Country Representative and other partners had met at Bwera Hospital on Wednesday to discuss an action plan.

Initial measures to prevent the transmission of Ebola include a ban on mass gatherings such as markets, the vaccination of contacts and health workers, and a public information radio campaign to allay concerns and rumours about the outbreak.

Alongside WHO, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF announced that it had launched an emergency Ebola response plan in Uganda, in response to the latest developments.

The move follows months of preparedness and prevention efforts as Ebola cases have continued increase in DRC, where there have been more than 2,000 infections and nearly 1,400 deaths in the country’s worst recorded outbreak after it began last August.

“As our thoughts are with this young boy’s family, this is a tragic reminder that even one case of Ebola is one too many,” said UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Dr. Doreen Mulenga. “We must do everything possible to stop this outbreak in its tracks and prevent other needless deaths.” 

In recent months, UNICEF has supported the Government of Uganda implement extensive programmes to make sure communities in numerous districts in western Uganda bordering the DRC are prepared for a potential outbreak.

Seeking professional medical help quickly ‘a priority’, says UNICEF

With the aim of empowering communities in numerous districts in western Uganda bordering the DRC against a potential Ebola outbreak, UNICEF has already made nearly 350,000 household visits to share information about the disease and the importance of seeking help quickly.

More than 14,000 public meetings have also been held at schools, churches, mosques, markets, bus stops and funeral gatherings to discuss Ebola prevention, reaching around 2.4 million people.

Other measures include building capacity for infection prevention and control in health facilities through water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, and training nearly 1,500 Uganda Red Cross volunteers and para-social workers to support communities dealing with Ebola-related stress.

“Awareness is the best way to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Mulenga. “Strategically communicating the correct knowledge and best practices to affected communities is critical to doing so.”

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Recognize, celebrate and ‘stand in solidarity’ with persons with albinism

INTERNATIONAL, 13 June 2019, Human Rights - International Albinism Awareness Day is a time to “recognize, celebrate and stand in solidarity with persons with albinism around the world”, the United Nations urged on THURSDAY, taking place this year under the banner, “Still Standing Strong”.

Each 13 June, the world is reminded that people with albinism deserve to have their rights to life and security protected. Persons with albinism routinely face ongoing hurdles and challenges to their human rights, ranging from stigma and discrimination, to barriers in health and education.

Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition present at birth. It is found in both sexes, regardless of ethnicity, in all countries of the world.

Heath challenges

A lack of pigmentation, or melanin, in the hair, skin and eyes, causes vulnerability to the sun and bright lights, usually leaving people with albinism visually impaired and prone to developing skin cancer.

In some countries, according to UN figures, a majority of those persons with albinism die from skin cancer between the ages of 30 and 40. Although highly preventable when their right to health is maintained, these measures – including access to regular health checks, sunscreen, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing – are unavailable or inaccessible to them in a significant number of countries.

Due to the lack of melanin in the eyes, persons with albinism also have permanent visual impairment that often leads to disabilities.

Consequently, in the realm of development measures, they have been and are among those “left furthest behind.” Therefore, the UN stresses that persons with albinism need to be targeted for human rights interventions in the manner envisioned by the Sustainable Development Goals.

Discrimination

Persons with albinism also face discrimination due to their skin colour; as such, they are often subject to multiple and intersecting discrimination on the grounds of both disability and colour. Additionally, they are often invisible in social and political arenas.

While numbers vary, it is estimated that in North America and Europe one-in-every 17,000 to 20,000 people have some form of albinism. The condition is much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, with estimates of one-in-1,400 people being affected in Tanzania and as high as one-in-1,000 reported for populations in Zimbabwe and other ethnic groups in Southern Africa, according to the UN.

People affected by albinism are often visually impaired and need special protection against the sun. They often develop skin cancer and suffer from social stigmatization, according to UNICEF., by Corbis Images/Patricia Willocq

Discrimination against people with albinism varies from region to region.

In the western world, including North America, Europe and Australia, it often consists of name-calling, teasing and bullying in childhood.

Little information is available from other regions, including Asia, South America and the Pacific. However, the UN reveals that according to some reports, in China and other Asian countries, “children with albinism face abandonment and rejection by their families”.

Persons with albinism in Africa often face severe forms of discrimination and violence, statistics show. In a region where most of the population is relatively dark-skinned, the greater contrast in the degree of pigmentation draws attention to people with albinism, making them more vulnerable.  

Since 2010, there have been around 700 cases of attacks and killings of persons with albinism in 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. And those are only the reported cases.

Marking the day

The UN in New York is commemorating the day with a series of events, including on in which participants, including South African model Thando Hopa, will walk from the UN to Times Square where a billboard will display Albinism Day messaging. 

There is also a side-event for persons with albinism during the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which, among others, will feature Mwigulu Matonange, a child victim of mutilation in Tanzania who, in 2015, was assisted by the UN Fund for Victims of Torture in receiving a prosthetic arm.

One young man with albinism, Lazarus Chigwandali, uses his music for change. Mr. Chigwandali has been featured in an award-winning documentary and has also met with the Ikponwosa Ero the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. Together, they are standing strong for human rights.

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Mali peace process in a ‘critical phase’, says head of UN Mission

INTERNATIONAL, 12 June 2019, Peace and Security - Addressing the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday, the head of the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said that amid ongoing violence, including scores of civilian deaths and deadly attacks on UN peacekeepers, a critical phase of the peace process had now been reached.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif expressed his belief that the existing peace accord between armed groups and the Malian Government still provides opportunities for real progress, over the next six to 12 months. However, whilst civil society is represented in the structures set up in the wake of the 2015 Peace Accord, women, he said, remain under-represented.

The Malian Government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012 that fractured the country, including a military coup d'état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists.
The nomination of Prime Minster Boubou Cissé, on April 22 this year; the signing of a governance deal between the majority party and the opposition; and the formation of a broad-based government; marked a new phase in the peace process, added Mr. Annadif.

These events have opened the way for political and institutional reforms, including the creation of a development zone in the north of Mali. The administration’s return to the region, he said, promises to allow the population to access basic services, one of the key objectives of the peace deal.

However, the senior UN official warned that this "ray of hope” can only be transformed into a real opportunity if there is a marked improvement in the security situation, particularly in the turbulent centre of the country, scene of the attacks on the village of Sobane-Da during the night of June 9 and 10, and the Koulougon and Ogassagou massacres in January and March.

MINUSMA/Marco Dormino
UN human rights investigators accompanied by peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, meet villagers in central Mali after their homes were attacked in February 2019.

Ending impunity from justice, and the ‘vicious cycle’ of violence

The “vicious cycle" of violence, continued Mr. Annadif, risks inciting the population to mete out their own form of justice, and highlights the importance of the fight against impunity. MINUSMA, he said, has made considerable efforts to establish the facts in the cases of inter-ethnic and terror-related attacks, and has provided the government with recommendations for action.

The UN Peacekeeping force in Mali is now, said Mr. Annadif, much more proactive: whereas the majority of troops formerly protected UN bases, today, at least 70 per cent are now on the ground, protecting civilians and humanitarian aid convoys.

He went on to praise the strong coordination between the UN Mission and other partner organizations ─ such as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the European Union ─ which has produced positive results.

Mr. Annadif concluded his briefing by reiterating that Mali has reached a decisive turning point in the peace process, thanks to the work of MINUSMA, the engagement of the signatories to the peace process, and other partners. He called on the Security Council to extend the mandate of MINUSMA, in order to consolidate the security and political gains made so far.

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Conflict prevention, mediation: among ‘most important tools’ to reduce human suffering, Guterres tells Security Council

INTERNATIONAL, 12 June 2019, Peace and Security - Conflict prevention and mediation are two of “the most important tools at our disposal to reduce human suffering” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday.  

“When we act early, and are united, we can successfully prevent crises from escalating, saving lives and reducing suffering – fulfilling the most fundamental mandate of the United Nations”, he continued. 

To further these aims, Mr. Guterres told the chamber that the UN was working with various parties to conflict, together with partners for peace, in regions and countries across the world.  

He noted some “encouraging signs”, such as successful constitutional transfers of power in Mali and Madagascar; the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea; the revitalized agreement in South Sudan; and, after decades of dispute, “the designation of the Republic of North Macedonia to be internationally recognized”.   

The UN also continues to push back against serious challenges posed by complex conflicts.  

While the Stockholm Agreement in Yemen between Government and Houthi opposition was “an important step”, the UN chief noted that “that must now move to a negotiated settlement”. 

In the Central African Republic, the UN is helping to implement the African Union-mediated peace agreement; conducting robust operations to ensure armed groups’ adherence and facilitating local peace accords. And in Burkina Faso, it is working with a wide range of national actors to strengthen infrastructures for peace in response to rising sectarian violence.   

Obstacles abound 

Despite these efforts, enormous obstacles remain, including wars that continue to rage as “external actors dither or even fuel the violence” and as non-State armed groups and militias fragment, causing even greater chaos.  

Moreover a resurgence of populism and policies contribute to resentment, marginalization and extremism, even in societies that are not at war, rolling back human rights and the progress that has been made over recent decades on gender and inclusion, said the UN chief.  It’s civilians “who pay the price”, he underscored. 

Solutions prevail 

Mr. Guterres elaborated on a broad range of tools set out in Chapter VI of the UN Charter and urged government to “make full use” of them. 

“Sustainable Development is an end in itself, but it is also one of the most effective tools we have to prevent conflict”, Mr. Guterres stressed. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our blueprint to create resilient, stable societies and to address the root causes of violence of all kinds”.  

He spelled out that his means “a strong focus on inclusivity, with a special emphasis on mainstreaming women’s rights and gender equality across our prevention and mediation work”. 

While progress on women’s participation in formal peace processes is “still lagging”, the UN chief said, “we will continue to use creative strategies to advance women’s participation, building on previous efforts including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and the Yemeni Women’s Technical Advisory Group”.  

Prevention and mediation will not work without broader political efforts – UN chief

Noting that some 600 million youth in fragile and conflict-affected states have a vital contribution to make to mediation and peacebuilding processes, he drew attention to the first International Symposium for Youth Participation in Peace Processes earlier this year as “an important step forward”.   

“Independent actors and non-governmental organizations, including the Elders, are a critical complementary element to our efforts”, added the UN chief.  

“But let’s not fool ourselves,” he continued. “Prevention and mediation will not work without broader political efforts”. 

The Secretary-General urged the Council and all Member States, “to strive for greater unity so that prevention and mediation efforts are as effective as possible” calling it “the only way to meet our responsibilities to the people we serve.” 

Spirit of inclusive dialogue  

Speaking as Chair of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, to promote good governance and ethical leadership, former Irish President Mary Robinson urged the Council to approach the topics in the “spirit of inclusive dialogue and willingness to work for compromise and consensus in the interests of peace”. 

UN Photo/Loey Felipe | Mary Robinson, former Irish president and a member of The Elders, addresses a UN Security Council meeting on conflict prevention and mediation. (12 June 2019) ​​​​​​

She painted a picture of fear, conflict and despair “from the streets of Khartoum to the townships of Harare; the bombed-out hospitals of Idlib to the ruined schools of Yemen; and the slums of Gaza to the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh”.  

“Over the decades the Council – and, particularly, its five permanent members – has failed to live up to its responsibilities and has favored realpolitik or short-term power stratagems rather than meeting the solemn commitments outlined in the UN Charter, she spelled out. 

“Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the repeated use of the veto by certain permanent members on resolutions aimed to prevent mass atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on civilians” she stressed, adding that “the international community must not wait until a major tragedy”. 

Council’s strong voice needed ‘more than ever’ - former UN chief 

When the Security Council can cooperate and speak with a strong common voice, “its decisions can have a decisive impact, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Chamber. 

“This strong, common voice is needed more than ever at this current time, when the deceptive allure of populism and isolationism is growing across all continents, from North and South America to Africa, Asia and Europe” he stated. 

Faced with complex, multi-faceted and gravely serious challenges, Mr. Ban said it was “profoundly irresponsible”, that politicians “collude in or deliberately stoke illusions” for their own gain, in full knowledge that no one country, however powerful, will be able to meet the global challenges on its own. 

“The working methods of the Council could be improved” he maintained, advising members to “agree on a joint common position to address conflicts in their early stages”, including through timely and strong statements. 

Turning to the nuclear threat, Mr. Ban that said the “risks of nuclear conflict are higher than they have been in several decades”. 

There is also the risk, he said, that “the whole architecture of arms control and nuclear non-proliferation that was built up during the decades of superpower confrontation may collapse, through a combination of neglect, hubris and ill-founded threat analysis...The consequences of failure do not bear contemplation”, he concluded. 

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Young New Yorkers bring robots, and a glimpse of the future, to UN Headquarters

INTERNATIONAL, 12 June 2019, SDGs - Tiny balls moved along a series of automated Lego robots, as young students from New York explained to United Nations staff the inner-workings of simple motors and engineering. 

In the room next door, UN communications technology staff were briefing the other half of the student group on some of the more advanced developments that are leading the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution - recognition and other emerging technologies.   

On the table was a supply chain of robots, some with red claws made of tiny triangles lifting the balls to a platform, others sliding up a conveyer belt. Occasionally, a white or orange ball the size of a quarter-dollar would bounce off and land at the students’ feet.  

Camryn is one of the 18 students from Queens, New York, who visited the UN to showcase the robots on Wednesday, as part of a demonstration into how essential all technology is, to reaching the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

She pointed out the simple motor and bridge and spoke about how much she enjoyed the engineering experience, although she’s not ready yet to commit to this field in the future.   

Heading into orbit, to save the planet

“I don’t know. I’m only 11”, she said, proudly pointing out a robot that moves without wheels on giant spindles – a creation built around this year’s theme, “Into Orbit”. This extra-terrestrial leap of imagination makes students picture an uninhabitable planet that needs time to heal itself, sending all its inhabitants into space.  

Camryn is part of an after-school program, volunteering three hours per day at least three times per week, to build and then showcase the creations in Lego League competitions, following a two-month research period. The program teaches students about physics, maths and science, as well as improving their communications skills and abilities to work in teams.  

“I love the programme. It also teaches independence and time management,” said Camryn’s mother, who is one of numerous chaperones for the UN visit and helps to support the after-school program.  

There are ten girls on the team, one as young as nine, with students attending fourth to eighth grade.  

They need to believe in themselves. Prove the critics wrong. You can do all this at home - Science teacher, Francis ‘Mr. B’ Belizario

Motivating the students is easy says the coach and science teacher, Francis ‘Mr. B’ Belizario: “They hear the word Lego. They hear the word robotics.”  

He said reaching out to girls is important and while students in fourth and fifth grade still see equality between the genders, that changes when you go up in age.  

“There’s no excuses now for the inequality. It used to be that things were manual. It’s all machines now. Programming involves brains”, Mr. B said. “They need to believe in themselves. Prove the critics wrong. You can do all this at home.”   

While the “Jaguars” where showcasing their robots, the “Wolves” were hearing from two staff at the UN Emerging Technologies section of the Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT).  

Referencing the five robots or modules that make up the giant obstacle course for balls, he talked about new technology that uses up to six satellites in orbit to track the temperature, pressure and humidity of goods such as vaccines that, like the balls, move through a supply chain.  

“Imagine that one of those balls is chocolate. You don’t want it to be too hot because it would melt,” he explained, pointing to how the little box on the table works in the real world.  

“Is that a breadboard that hold the sensors?”, asked one of the students, sparking a conversation that would last until lunchtime.  

The students would later get a tour of the United Nations and be back in school across the river in Queens, for the afternoon bell. For most, it was their first time visiting Headquarters. When asked what the UN does, one student replied that “diplomats from around the world meet here and discuss things.”    

Those things include how people will survive in the future rolled into 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include gender equality and sustainable development.  

“Robots are usually not discussed here,” our UN News reporter told the students.  

“They should be. It’s how we will survive,” was the reply. 

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Understanding of LGBT realities ‘non-existent’ in most countries, says UN expert

INTERNATIONAL, 12 June 2019, Human Rights - Policymakers in most parts of the world are taking decisions in the dark when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, an independent UN human rights expert said on Wednesday. 

In a statement issued ahead of presenting his latest report to the Human Rights Council later this month, Victor Madrigal-Borloz urged States to collect more data in an effort to understand the root causes of violence which is often routinely directed towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in societies across the world. 

Policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices - UN Independent Expert Victor-Madrigal-Borloz

“States must adequately address this scourge through public policy, access to justice, law reform or administrative actions,” said Mr. Madrigal-Borloz. “In most contexts, policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices.” 

Clear information about the realities as lived by most LGBT people are at best, little understood, “incomplete and fragmented”, said the UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, “but in most countries it is simply non-existent". 

 “My findings show that barriers created by criminalization, pathologization, demonization and stigmatization, hinder accurate estimates regarding the world population” which is affected, he said. “Maintaining such a level of ignorance without seeking appropriate evidence is tantamount to criminal negligence.”  

 The expert said that data collection efforts are already underway in many parts of the world and have supported assessments of the situation of LGBT persons in various areas of life, including their relative safety, well-being, health, education and employment.  

“However, many other areas still lack data and remain unexplored, for example, the concerns of ageing LGBT people and intersections with disability, racism and xenophobia”, he noted, adding that where States criminalize certain forms of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, fully effective data collection is impossible: “I have received multiple accounts of data being used for surveillance, harassment, entrapment, arrest and persecution by government officials in such contexts”, he added. 

The rapporteur called on States to “design and implement comprehensive data collection procedures to assess the type, prevalence, trends and patters of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. When doing so, States should always respect the overriding ‘do no harm’ principle and follow a human rights-based approach to prevent the misuse of collected data,” concluded the expert. 

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More funding needed to tackle child labour in agriculture says UN, marking World Day

INTERNATIONAL - 12 June 2019, Human Rights - The number of children working in agriculture has increased by 10 million since 2012, which is why on Wednesday’s World Day Against Child Labour, the UN agency for the sector is urging countries to allocate more funding to address a global surge in subsistence farming at every level. 

"It is time we go beyond the exclusive focus on selected global supply chains and begin investing resources into tackling child labor in all situations", said Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva in a video message, adding it was “essential to engage the agricultural workers and producer organizations." 

Child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child's age, prevents compulsory education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or moral development. 

The FAO chief pointed out that not all participation by children in agriculture is considered child labour. For example, girls and boys learning how to grow vegetables or feed chickens on the family farm, can sharpen their skills and improve future livelihoods. 

"However, when children work many hours daily, when they do heavy work, when they carry out tasks that are dangerous or inappropriate for their age, when this impedes their education, this is child labour, and needs to be eliminated," he stressed. 

"Household poverty remains a common cause of child labour in agriculture”, Mr. da Silva said. “In this context, social protection programmes and school feeding initiatives that link with family farmers are proven to be good antidotes against child labour". 

Conference moves to end the practice 

FAO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU) organized a special conference in Brussels to mark the World Day.  

Children sell food at a market in the town of Korhogo, in the north-west of Côte d’Ivoire. (file 2017), by © UNICEF/Frank Dejongh

With an estimated 152 million child labourers worldwide, more than half of whom are being exploited in the most extreme forms, Africa has the most with 72 million, followed by Asia with 62 million. Around 71 per cent of child labourers work in the agriculture sector, amounting to more than 108 million boys and girls, making it the focus for the conference overall, and the conference will formulate short- and long-term action plans to end exploitation in the sector. 

Attendees, including national representatives, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and fair-trade organizations, are reflecting on progress and best practices for tackling child labour as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead.  

Stepping-up efforts  

The world will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, if child labourers in the agricuture sector are simply left behind, according to FAO. 

Children in Nepal sell flowers in a Durbar Square, Kathmandu., by UN News/Eric Ganz

"To make progress towards Zero Child Labour (SDG 8.7) the international community needs to reach scale”, which requires more investments, said FAO Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development Maximo Torero Cullen. 

He highlighted that a cross-sectoral approach focusing on agriculture, rural development and poverty reduction would help alleviate the child labour scourge.  

"Each of these sectors and work areas have concrete potential to substantially contribute to the progress towards ending child labour, which are largely untapped", concluded Mr. Torero. 

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One-in-five suffers mental health condition in conflict zones: new UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 11 June 2019, Health - More than one-in-five people living in conflict-affected areas suffers from a mental illness, according to a new UN-backed report, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for increased, sustained investment in mental health services in those zones.

Around 22 per cent of those affected, suffer depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to an analysis of 129 studies published in The Lancet – a United Kingdom-based peer-reviewed medical journal.

“The new estimates, together with already available practical tools for helping people with mental health conditions in emergencies, add yet more weight to the argument for immediate and sustained investment, so that mental and psychosocial support is made available to all people in need living through conflict and its aftermath,” said study author Mark van Ommeren, who works in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

In conflict situations and other humanitarian emergencies, WHO provides support by:

  • Supporting coordination and assessing the mental health needs of populations affected.
  • Determining the existing support that is available on the ground and what more is needed.
  • Helping to provide support capacity, either through training or bringing in additional resources.

The study also shows that about nine per cent of conflict-affected populations have a moderate to severe mental health condition; substantially higher than the global estimate for these mental health conditions in the general population.

“Depression and anxiety appeared to increase with age in conflict settings, and depression was more common among women than men”, according to the study.

The revised estimates use data from 39 countries published between 1980 and August 2017, categorized cases as mild, moderate or severe. Natural disasters and public health emergencies, such as recent Ebola virus outbreaks in Africa, were not included.

The findings suggested that past studies underestimated the burden of mental health conditions in conflict-affected areas,

showing increased rates of severe, moderate and mild mental health issues, with the latter being the most prevalent. 

“I am confident that our study provides the most accurate estimates available today of the prevalence of mental health conditions in areas of conflict”, said lead author of the study Fiona Charlson of the University of Queensland, Australia and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in the United States.

In 2016, there were 53 ongoing conflicts in 37 countries, meaning that 12 per cent of the world’s population was living in an active conflict zone – an all-time high. Moreover, the fact that nearly 69 million people globally have been forcibly displaced by violence and conflict, makes it the highest global number since the Second World War.

“Despite their tragic consequences, when the political will exists, emergencies can be catalysts for building quality, sustainable mental health services that continue to help people in the long-term”, concluded the WHO author.

The Lancet
One-in-five people living in conflict areas experience anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to newly published analysis in a UN-backed report.
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Sudan: ‘Violence must stop’, says UNICEF chief, ‘gravely concerned’ over 19 child deaths since military backlash

INTERNATIONAL, 11 June 2019, Peace and Security - At least 19 children have reportedly been killed in Sudan and another 49 injured since a military backlash against protesters began earlier this month, prompting the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to express her grave concern “at the impact of the continuing violence and unrest in the country on children and young people”.

“We have received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

After the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir ended in a military takeover in April, talks faltered in May between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule.

On 3 June, security forces and paramilitaries fired on pro-democracy protesters holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, leaving a number of people dead and many more injured. News reports quote local doctors alleging multiple cases of rape against demonstrators, many involving the so-called Rapid Support Forces militia. Schools, hospitals and health centres have been looted and destroyed, with health workers attacked simply for doing their job, said UNICEF.

Many parents are too scared to let their children leave the house – UNICEF chief

“Many parents are too scared to let their children leave the house, fearful of violence, harassment and lawlessness”, asserted Ms. Fore.

Moreover, water, food and medicine shortages have been reported across the country, putting children’s health and wellbeing at risk. “Children throughout Sudan are already bearing the brunt of decades of conflict, chronic underdevelopment and poor governance”, continued the UNICEF chief. “The current violence is making a critical situation even worse”.

Even in the face of this unrest, UNICEF continues to work for children in Sudan. “We are providing millions of children, including those who have been displaced or are refugees, with vaccines, safe water, treatment for severe acute malnutrition and psychosocial support”, explained Ms. Fore.

“But the violence must stop”, she spelled out. UNICEF is appealing to all involved to protect and keep children out of harm’s way.

“Any attack on children, schools or hospitals is a grave violation of children’s rights”, flagged the UNICEF chief, calling on the authorities to “allow humanitarian organizations to respond to those in need, including through access to hospitals that have been off-limits or closed”.

She echoed the Secretary-General’s request that the parties pursue peaceful dialogue and resume negotiations over the transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional authority”.

“The children of Sudan want peace”, she concluded. “The international community needs to take a firm stand in support of their aspirations.”

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