1 in 5 young people lose sleep over social media

1 in 5 young people regularly wake up in the night to send or check messages on social media, according to new research published today in the Journal of Youth Studies. This night-time activity is making teenagers three times more likely to feel constantly tired at school than their peers who do not log on at night, and could be affecting their happiness and wellbeing. girls much more likely to access their social media accounts during the night than boys.

— source alphagalileo.org

35 Palestinian children were killed by IOF in 2016

The Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine Branch said that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed 35 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2016.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at the Palestine section of the DCI, told the Quds Press news agency that 2016 recorded the highest number of murders committed by the IOF against Palestinian children in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 12 years, pointing out that the number of children killed in 2015 in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem had reached 26.

— source english.palinfo.com

300 million children breathing toxic air – UNICEF report

Almost one in seven of the world’s children, 300 million, live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution – six or more times higher than international guidelines – reveals a new UNICEF report.

Clear the Air for Children uses satellite imagery to show for the first time how many children are exposed to outdoor pollution that exceeds global guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), and where they live across the globe.

The findings come a week ahead of the COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

The satellite imagery confirms that around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization. South Asia has the largest number of children living in these areas, at 620 million, with Africa following at 520 million children. The East Asia and Pacific region has 450 million children living in areas that exceed guideline limits.

The study also examines the heavy toll of indoor pollution, commonly caused by use of fuels like coal and wood for cooking and heating, which mostly affects children in low-income, rural areas.

Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one in 10 under-five deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health.

Children are more susceptible than adults to both indoor and outdoor air pollution as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracts are more permeable. Young children also breathe faster than adults, and take in more air relative to their body weight. The most disadvantaged, who already tend to have poorer health and inadequate access to health services, are the most vulnerable to the illnesses caused by polluted air.

UNICEF is asking world leaders attending COP 22 to take four urgent steps in their countries to protect children from air pollution.

Reduce pollution: All countries should work to meet WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the safety and wellbeing of children. To achieve this, governments should adopt such measures as cutting back on fossil fuel combustion and investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
Increase children’s access to healthcare: Investing in children’s overall healthcare – including immunisation campaigns and improving knowledge, community management and numbers seeking care for pneumonia (a leading killer of children under five) – will improve their resilience to air pollution and their ability to recover from diseases and conditions linked to it.
Minimize children’s exposure: Sources of pollution such as factories should not be located within the vicinity of schools and playgrounds. Better waste management can reduce the amount of waste that is burned within communities. Cleaner cookstoves can help improve air quality within homes. Reducing air pollution overall can help lower children’s exposure.
Monitor air pollution: Better monitoring has been proven to help children, youth, families and communities to reduce their exposure to air pollution, become more informed about its causes, and advocate for changes that make the air safer to breathe.

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future,” Lake said.

UNICEF is advocating for lower levels of air pollution, while also working on the ground to protect children from its effects. For example, the children’s organisation backs the development, distribution and use of cleaner cookstoves in Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and other countries, and works through some of its country programmes to reduce the impact of outdoor air pollution on children’s health. It also supports programmes to increase children’s access to quality healthcare and to vaccinate them against conditions like pneumonia.

— source unicef.org

Two billion children exposed to high levels of air pollution: UNICEF

At least 300 million children around the world live in regions that experience extreme air pollution, and many of these children are living in poverty and at heightened risk from conflicts, crises and impact of climate change. According to the UNICEF study—the first of its kind study that analysed satellite data—toxic fumes in these regions are more than six times the international guidelines. Moreover, about 90 per cent of the world’s children—two billion—live in places where outdoor air pollution far exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) limits. In fact, nine out of 10 people in the world live in places where air quality levels breach WHO safe limits.

Every year, about 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution. The number of child deaths is more than the casualties caused by malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe more rapidly than adults. The cell layer in their lungs is also more permeable to pollutant particles that can cross the blood-brain barrier causing permanent harm to cognitive development and. Air pollution also affects the unborn as the particles inhaled by pregnant mothers can cross the placental barrier (also known as “leakiest barrier”), thus injuring fetuses.

Over three million people a year (six people very minute) die due to outdoor air pollution. It is likely to double by 2050. Similarly, indoor air pollution, mainly from wood or dung stoves, causes three million deaths a year.

Of the 300 million exposed to extreme levels of pollution (six times over WHO limits), 220 million live in South Asia, especially India, which is home to many of the world’s most polluted cities. South Asia (620 million) has the largest number of children living in areas where air pollution exceeds WHO limits. Africa is a close second with 520 million children at risk. The East Asia and Pacific region has 450 million children living in such areas.

Children in developing countries are more vulnerable to air pollution as they have little resistance due to poor nutrition and insufficient health care. Lack of access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene makes cases of respiratory infections like pneumonia more common and potentially more deadly.

Children in developing countries are more vulnerable to air pollution as they have little resistance due to poor nutrition. Credit: UNICEF

According to the report, Bangladesh has one of the largest burdens of child mortality linked to indoor air pollution. Over 8,500 children die each year due to diseases caused by household air pollution (HAP) and 89 per cent of households use solid fuel—wood, agricultural waste and cow dung—for cooking and heating. Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, experiences worst air pollution during the harsh and prolonged winters. At times, air quality in the city gets worse than Beijing and Delhi.

In Europe, 120 million children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO limits and 20 million children are exposed to pollution level that is more than double the limit.

Four urgent steps

The UNICEF is urging world leaders attending COP 22 in November to reduce air pollution by cutting down fossil fuel burning in power plants and vehicles. According to the World Bank estimates, the welfare losses from air pollution are more than $5 trillion a year.

Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe more rapidly than adults. Credit: UNICEF

The report calls for taking four urgent actions to protect children from air pollution.

Reduce pollution: Governments should make greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources to meet WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the safety and wellbeing of children.

Increase access to healthcare: Investing in children’s healthcare, including immunisation campaigns and community awareness will improve their resilience to air pollution and their ability to recover from diseases and conditions linked to it.

Minimise children’s exposure: Sources of pollution like factories should be located away from schools and playgrounds. Preventing waste burning within communities is also recommended. Cleaner cooking stoves can help improve air quality within homes.

Monitor air pollution: Better monitoring helps children, families and communities to reduce their exposure to air pollution as they become more informed about its causes.

— source downtoearth.org.in

Girl Soldiers: Forgotten Casualties of War

As secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was visibly shaken by sexual crimes against women and girls when she visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009. Sexual crimes in this central African country, known as the “rape capital of the world,” include the sexual exploitation of tens of thousands of girls abducted and trapped as child soldiers. Nonetheless, since 2010, President Obama has waived a congressionally mandated ban on military aid to countries known to exploit child soldiers, among them the DRC.

The DRC’s eastern region is exceedingly rich in rare minerals and exceedingly rife with decades of brutal war over those minerals. This country and three others—Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan—each of which exploits thousands of child soldiers, will receive more than $161 million in U.S. military aid in fiscal year 2016.

The Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008 bans the U.S. government from providing military resources and aid to countries that use soldiers younger than 18; it allows a presidential waiver in cases of “national interest,” however. But what possible “national interest” can override the lives of tens of thousands of children shattered in the worst of childhood nightmares—lives of being forced to torture, kill and rape, and in the case of girls, lives of being serially raped and impregnated?

The Reality

At any given time, about 300,000 children between the ages of 8 and 18 are exploited as child soldiers in scores of civil and international conflicts in Africa, Asia and Colombia. In Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2001), 80 percent of fighters were between 7 and 15 years old; in Liberia’s conflict (1989-2003), up to 70 percent of government and rebel troops were children. Forty percent of soldiers slain in Colombia were children; the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is mainly composed of children. They are abducted from agricultural fields, or taken en route to school or market, or when their village is attacked. Others join for reasons of extreme poverty and hunger; fleeing family abuse; revenge for enemy brutality upon their family; being drawn to a popular cause; and, in the case of some boys, as a way to garner respect from male elders. In-depth investigators of child soldiers conclude, “… never before in the history of warfare have children been so exploited on such a vast scale.”

What most people do not realize is how many child soldiers are girls—an estimated 40 percent, who are exploited, like boy soldiers, as servants, cooks, porters, spies, human shields, suicide bombers and fighters. In Sri Lanka, more than 43 percent of 50,000 children in armed groups were girls, a finding determined during peace talks between warring parties and UNICEF and documented by journalist Jimmie Briggs. Deepening their trauma, girls are taken into sexual slavery by boy soldiers, adult soldiers and commanders and, in some cases, sold in exchange for weapons. Given the popular image of boys as child soldiers, hundreds of thousands of girls constitute an invisible army and “forgotten casualties of war” in the rehabilitation process following the cessation of armed conflict.

Armed groups target children for wars because children—and particularly girls, because of sex discrimination—are obedient, vulnerable and malleable. Children can be more easily indoctrinated into being the next generation of armed rebels and terrorists. Child soldiers are cheap because they are unpaid and eat less than adults; and they provide functions such as cooking, cleaning and portering, thus freeing up adult soldiers for more rigorous fighting. With the prevalence of light but deadly weapons, both girls and boys are trained for combat. In a 2002 survey, nearly half the interviewed girls in armed groups described their primary role as “fighter.”

Despite their utility as fighters and servants, girl soldiers are raped, prostituted, mutilated, infected with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and made pregnant by soldiers. Many are permanently injured and will suffer lifelong pain as a result of multiple rapes and untreated infections. Returning to their villages and homes, numerous girls have reported that they are rejected as filthy and immoral, and they are blamed for disgracing family and community honor. Even more shunned are girls who return pregnant or with children born of rape. Losing family and social support, they are compelled to turn to prostitution or stay with an abusive ex-soldier “husband” in order to raise their child and survive.

Moreover, even after commitments to release child soldiers, armed groups often refuse to give up girls, holding them captive as “wives.” Thus, the full cycle of misogyny entraps girls: ruthlessly violated as child soldiers, ostracized when returning home and often not released in the “peace” process.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Akallo was abducted in 1996 with 29 other high school girls from her boarding school dormitory at St. Mary’s College Kisubi in northern Uganda by warlord Joseph Kony and rebel soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Physically, the girls were pushed to the point of death, walking barefoot, given little food and water and beaten with sticks and the butts of rifles. And spiritually, they were driven to the point of death, forced to torture and kill other children—sometimes a sibling—in a seasoning process designed to dehumanize them, extinguish their consciences and break their wills. Kony forced the girls to train with AK-47s. He also distributed them among his commanders as “wives.” They were expected to fight even with babies strapped to their backs.

Akallo was given to a man “older than her father,” who on first encounter seized her and raped her. “I felt like a thorn was in my skin as my innocence was destroyed,” she wrote of his sexual violence. In her community, the stigma of rape is so extreme that ex-girl soldiers will admit to murder before they will admit to having been raped.

In contrast to the outcast plight of girl soldiers, many boy soldiers earn a manly status in their communities. Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate, works with ex-child soldiers from Charles Taylor’s army during Liberia’s civil war. Joseph, a boy she counseled, explained that he became a child soldier because “boys who joined the rebellion came back and were really respected and were often seen in the company of the elders and community leaders.”

Gbowee is convinced that the nexus between violence, weapons and manhood is responsible for drawing many former boy soldiers into the brutal, macho cycle of war. Many of the girls she assisted were “child wives” of the ex-soldiers and had been abducted, raped and beaten into submission. With no exit, each girl was “caught up in a spiral of one individual trying to prove his maleness. … The abuse women suffer during conflict is a reflection of the interaction between men and women, boys and girls, during peace time.”

Compounding the excruciating burdens of girl soldiers is the failure of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs of the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations—programs intended to help former child soldiers with education, job skills and fitting back into society. Save the Children’s 2005 report, “Forgotten Casualties of War: Girls in Armed Conflict,” concludes that girls are caught between “recrimination from the armed group if they leave and from the community if they return home” and are invisible in the reintegration programs. The misogyny and neglect on all sides has sent many of them into prostitution for survival or resulted in their suicides. Former girl soldiers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as their male counterparts.

The Fiction

For an exercise in unreality and moral depravity, Google images of “girl soldiers.” You will find a garbage heap of pornographic pictures: cartoons of large-breasted women with big thighs and some muscles, barely clothed, wielding a gun in each hand, looking like (so-called) “happy hookers” costumed for Armed Services Day. Sprinkled among these are photos of young female soldiers, hanging out passively, like decorations, among male soldiers. Of the first 200 images I perused, a handful portrayed real girl soldiers—serious beyond years with sad-to-death eyes. Yet even these photos lacked the gruesome reality of the tens of thousands of girls entrapped in armies and militias.

For contrast, Google images of “child soldiers.” Ninety-five percent of these images are boys. All are realistic war photos: children carrying, aiming and shooting weapons sometimes taller than they are; roaming streets in search of prey; poised to kill, faces deadly serious, some hardened, some older than their years, others still bearing traces of their stolen childhood. No airbrushed or pornographic reality on this site. Only a crucial omission: Real girl soldiers—who constitute up to 40 percent of child soldiers and suffer the most vile sexual violation and rejection—are missing.

We in the United States need a national floodlight on the issue of child soldiers. Employing children, by whatever means, in armed conflict is an crime against humanity recognized by the International Criminal Court. Forty percent of funding available for the rehabilitation of child soldiers should be dedicated to the reintegration of girls within their communities. Leaders who use child soldiers should be prosecuted and indicted. We need to research countries that traffic in arms and whose businesses invest in or conduct trade with countries that use child soldiers. And violators should be publicized, stigmatized and boycotted.

We need to frame and shame the hypocrisy of passing a law to protect children caught in conflict and then violating it for that morbid excuse of “national security”—a coverall for American militarism, xenophobia, torture, erasure of civil rights and sexual exploitation. Otherwise, political statements that women’s rights are human rights are a sham.

— source truthdig.com By Pat Hynes

Thousands of kids dying in northeast Nigeria

Thousands of children have died of starvation and disease in Boko Haram-ravaged northeastern Nigeria, Doctors Without Borders said Tuesday quoting a new survey that is forcing Nigerian officials to stop denying the crisis.

The Paris-based organization hopes that official recognition of the calamity in which “thousands are dying” will help bring urgent aid before older children also start dying, Natalie Roberts, emergency program manager for northeast Nigeria, told The Associated Press.

Doctors Without Borders first sounded the alarm in June but senior officials of the National Emergency Management Agency managing the camps as late as September denied any child was suffering malnutrition and accused the doctors of exaggerating the crisis to attract donations. That was after The Associated Press published images of matchstick-thin children fighting for their lives at an intensive feeding center in Maiduguri, run by the France-based medical organization, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF.

— source bigstory.ap.org