Category Archives: UNICEF

What Is Child Abuse?


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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‘Child abuse or maltreatment of a child constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in real or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’

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What is child abuse

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Child abuse in the world today exists in a variety of forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect and child labour.

One of the earliest recorded instances of child abuse appears in the story of a poor boy named Sopāka in the Buddhist Jataka Tales.

In Sāvatthi, the capital of Kosala kingdom in India, a poor woman while in labour fell into a coma. Her kinsfolk carried her to the cemetery for cremation. A kind spirit loitering there created a windy storm and prevented the fire from burning the woman’s body.

After the people who brought the woman’s body for cremation ran away fearing the storm, the woman gave birth to a boy. The cemetery watchman took the mother and the child under his wings. They called the child Sopāka meaning the “waif” because he was born in the cemetery.

The watchman was very wicked and unkind. He considered the innocent little boy a burden and often beat and scolded him. When Sopāka was seven years old the watchman decided to get rid of the boy.

One evening Sopāka accompanied the watchman to the far end of the cemetery where there were many half-burned rotting corpses. The watchman tied Sopāka to one of the stinking cadavers and returned home leaving the crying boy to the mercy of the nocturnal preying animals.

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The samanera Sopaka being abandoned in the cemetery with a corpse
Sopāka abandoned in the cemetery with a corpse.

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When the watchman returned home Sopāka’s mother asked him: “Where is my son?”

“I don’t know,” the watchman replied. “He came home before me.”

The mother worrying about her son was awake whole night.

Around midnight the jackals came. Sopāka paralyzed with fear started wailing.

The Buddha, sensing Sopāka’s destiny for arahantship (“perfected one”), sent a ray of glory towards him that proclaimed: “Sopāka, don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

At that moment, the boy got unbound and found himself standing before the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. The Buddha bathed him, clothed him, gave him food, consoled and comforted him.

Early next day Sopāka’s mother went to the Buddha seeking help.

“Why are you crying, sister?” asked the Buddha.

“O Lord,” replied the mother, “I have only one son and since last night he is missing.”

“Don’t worry, sister. Your son is safe. Here he is,” the Buddha said and showed her Sopāka.

After listening to the Buddha’s teachings she and her son Sopāka became followers of the Buddha.

The Buddhist scriptures also tell the story of a boy named Mattakundali whose miserly father severely neglects him and deprives him of medical care. Although “Sopāka” and “Mattakundali” are based in ancient India, both stories still resonate today in our modern society irrespective of which country we live in..

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Impact of Armed Conflict on Children


Children at both ends of the gun

Child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.”

War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Photo: War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The psychosocial effects of armed conflict on children can be devastating and may haunt them through life, says the Machel report, particularly when children are attacked by those they have considered neighbours and friends, as happened in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. ©

The exploitation of children in the ranks of the world’s armies must end, says a new United Nations report. “One of the most alarming trends in armed conflict is the participation of children as soldiers,” declares the report, by Graça Machel, the Secretary-General’s Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

The report says the use of child soldiers is a problem created by adults, to be eradicated by adults. It calls for a global campaign to demobilize all child soldiers and to “eradicate the use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.” The report further calls upon governments to renounce the practice of forced recruitment, which has put increasing numbers of children under arms against their will.

“Children are dropping out of childhood,” commented Devaki Jain of India, one of Ms. Machel’s Eminent Persons’ Group of advisers. “We must envision a society free of conflict where children can grow up as children, not weapons of war.”

The use of child soldiers is hardly new. “Children serve armies in supporting roles as cooks, porters, messengers and spies,” the report notes. “Increasingly, however, adults are conscripting children as soldiers deliberately.” Children under 15 years of age are known to be serving in government or opposition forces in at least 25 conflict zones and it is estimated that some 200,000 child soldiers under 16 years of age saw armed combat in 1988. Generally, however, child soldiers are statistically invisible as governments and armed opposition groups deny or downplay their role.

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.

With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.” And they usually don’t demand pay.

A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.

According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.

The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to “increase their courage” and to dull their sensitivity to pain.

Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier’s pay is given directly to the family.

For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their ‘wives’. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child’s experience of joining armed groups:

“At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry … later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion … In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights.”

It is difficult to reintegrate demobilized children after a peace settlement is reached. Many have been physically or sexually abused by the very forces for which they have been fighting, and have seen their parents killed, sometimes in the most brutal manner, in front of their eyes. Most have also been led into participating in murder, rape and other atrocities. These children have no skills for life in peacetime and they are accustomed to getting their way through violence.

The report urges that all future peace agreements include specific measures pertaining to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, ranging from job creation and the rebuilding of schools, to the training of teachers who are sensitive to the special needs of child victims of war.

The report calls on governments to regularize recruitment procedures for their armed forces and to prosecute violators to ensure that under-age recruitment does not occur. The Machel report also illustrates how the recruitment of children can at least be minimized when parents and communities are better informed about existing national and international law.

While much remains to be done, there have been some successes. In Peru, for example, forced recruitment drives reportedly declined in areas where they were denounced by parish churches. And in Myanmar, protests from aid agencies led to the release of boys forcibly recruited from a refugee camp. In the Sudan, humanitarian organizations have negotiated agreements with opposition groups to prevent the recruitment of children.

Source: UNICEF

UNICEF campaign for the disarmament of (female) child soldiers in Sri Lanka
A billboard campaign in Sri Lanka highlighting the plight of girl child soldiers. (Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN)

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Video: Help a Child Reach 5


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines diarrhea (or diarrhoea) as the health disorder of having three or more loose or fluid bowel movements per day or having more stools than is normal for a person.

DiarrheaMany people have a bout of diarrhea once or twice each year. Typically frequent bowel movements last two to three days, and in most cases treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. In some people, diarrhea often occurs as part of irritable bowel syndrome or due to other chronic diseases of the large intestine. The loss of essential fluids due to diarrhea cause dehydration that cause electrolyte disorders like potassium deficiency as well as other salt imbalances.

Though diarrhea is very common and usually not serious in normal circumstances, WHO  considers it as the major cause of death in developing countries and the second most frequent cause of infant deaths worldwide.

diarrhea-in-children

In 2009, diarrhea caused the death of 1.5 million children under the age of five and 1.1 million people aged five and over.

The most common cause of diarrhea is the infection of the gut by a virus. The infection sometimes called “intestinal flu” or “stomach flu” lasts usually for two to three days. Diarrhea may also be caused by:

      • Infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning)
      • Infections by certain other organisms,
      • Eating foods that upset the digestive system,
      • Malabsorption where the digestive system is unable to absorb adequately certain nutrients present in the diet,
      • Allergies to certain foods,
      • Diabetes,
      • Some medications,
      • Radiation therapy,
      • Diseases of the intestines like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis,
      • Hyperthyroidism,
      • Some types of cancer,
      • Excess use of laxatives,
      • Excess consumption of Alcohol,
      • Surgery in the digestive tract,
      • Competitive running.

Diarrhea may also follow a constipation in people who have irritable bowel syndrome.

Recently, I came across this video on YouTube. It is an advertisement produced for Lifebuoy. Normally, I do not endorse advertisements. However, I wish to share the video with you for the way it caught my attention and led me to the subject of diarrhea.

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I’m Only a Child, …


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This incredible 20 years old video that I have included in this post made a deep impression on me.  I cried and sobbed listening to the 12-year-old girl.

Severn Cullis-SuzukiSevern Cullis-Suzuk was born on November 30, 1979 and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Her mother is writer Tara Elizabeth Cullis. Her father, geneticist and environmental activist David Suzuki, is a third-generation Japanese Canadian.

While attending Lord Tennyson Elementary School in French Immersion, at age 9, she founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues.

In 1992, at age 12, Severn raised money with members of ECO to attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit – a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3 June to 14 June 1992, five thousand miles from their home.

Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttil, and Morgan Geisler, Severn Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit.

Severn spoke about the hole in the ozone layer, pollution, the devastation of the forests and extinction of many species of wild life and vegetation. She charged that we adults have no idea of how to fix these things, in fact can’t fix them, and that we must change our ways. “If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it,” she pleaded.

Severn’s amazing speech left her audience completely stupefied and speechless. After she ended her speech she received a standing ovation.

She received a lot of praise for her speech in the press – even Al Gore Jr., 45th Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), under President Bill Clinton called it “the best speech at Rio.”

The video of her speech has since become a viral hit, popularly known as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”.  This video has 2,018,732 hits to date.

In 1993, she was honoured in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. In 1993, Doubleday published her book Tell the World, a 32-page book of environmental steps for families.

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Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Hello, I am Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O – the Environmental Children’s Organization.

We are a group of 12 and 13 year-olds trying to make a difference, Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me.

We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come 5,000 miles to tell you adults you must change your ways.

Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market.

I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet, because they have nowhere left to go.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now, because of the holes in our ozone.

I am afraid to breathe the air, because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver, my home, with my Dad until, just a few years ago, we found a fish full of cancers.

And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct every day, vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.

I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you.

You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.

You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up a dead stream.

You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.

And you can’t bring back the forest that once grew where there is now a desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.

Here you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organizers, reporters or politicians. But, really, you’re mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and all of you are someone’s child.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, 5 billion strong, in fact 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind and in my fear I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.

In my country we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, buy and throw away and yet Northern countries will not share with the needy.

Even when we have more than enough we are afraid to share, we are afraid to let go of some of our wealth.

In Canada, we live a privileged life. We’ve plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets. The list could go on for 2 days.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent time with some children living on the streets.

This is what one child told us, ‘I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicines, shelter and love and affection’.

If a child on the street who has nothing is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these are children my own age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born. And that I could be one of those children living in the favelas of Rio.

I could be a child starving in Somalia, or a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I am only a child, yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers ending poverty and in finding treaties, what a wonderful place this earth would be.

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world.

You teach us to not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others and to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy.

Then, why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you are attending these conferences, who you are doing this for.

We are your own children.

You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in.

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying ‘Everything is going to be all right, it’s not the end of the world, and we are doing the best we can’.

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.

Are we even on your list of priorities?

My dad always says, ‘You are what you do, not what you say.’

Well, what you do makes me cry at night.

You grown-ups say you love us.

But I challenge you, please, make your actions reflect your words.

Thank you.

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