US Should Stop Detaining Migrants, Separating Children: United Nations

Geneva: The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.

Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.

"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.

Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.

The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.

Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.

"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.

The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said

"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.

Most crossing the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador where there is rampant violence and persecution targetting children and youth, he said.

"The fact that you have people coming from countries experiencing violence and might be subject to persecution by gangs and other criminal violence, would certainly ... give them the right to receive international protection," Spindler said.

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Cuba Exhibits Tangible Human Rights Achievements

Havana, Dec 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuba is showing today tangible human rights achievements by guaranteeing access to education, health and social security amid the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States more than 50 years ago.

More than 1,750,000 students were enrolled only in the 2017-2018 school year, about 68,000 students are in boarding schools and other 755,000 are in semi-boarding schools.

There are currently about 10,698 schools, of them, 26 are teacher training centers. These institutions have more than 23,000 students.

In terms of social security, the Caribbean island ensures retirement pensions to 1,672,000 people and about 245 million pesos for maternity leaves.

Regarding expenses, the State had 36.5 million pesos for public health, social assistance, culture, sports, public administration, among other sectors.

In sports, the Caribbean nation reached from 1900 to date about 77 gold, 68 silver and 75 bronze medals at Olympic Games, Granma newspaper said.

Cuba has been since January 1, 2017, for fourth time one of the eight representatives of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Human Rights Council, with more votes in its election (160) than any other country in the region.

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2017 ‘didn’t look good’ but 2018 will bring more wars, famine & extremism – NGO

Violence and pockets of fighting in Syria and Iraq, near-famine in Yemen, and Islamic extremists steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan will make humanitarian crises around the world much worse next year than they were in 2017, an NGO predicts.

The ‘Humanitarian Overview: An Analysis of Key Crises into 2018’ by Geneva-based think tank ACAPS looks at major trends that will shape the face of the world next year. It specifically focuses on countries going through deteriorating or ongoing crises, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, Venezuela, among others.

Internally displaced people wait to collect food aid, Somalia. File photo. © Ismail Taxta

Aross these countries, food security, displacement, health, and protection are expected to be the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2018,” the researchers said. “Most humanitarian crises in this report are driven by conflict, with a spread in violence and shifts in tactics this year in several countries.

“If 2017 did not look good, predictions for 2018 are no better: violence and insecurity are likely to deteriorate in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Syria next year,” ACAPS Director Lars Peter Nissen wrote in the report.

Islamic extremism will also continue to cause violence and conflict in various hotspots across the globe, the study said. In Afghanistan, where there is no let-up in 16-year war against the Taliban, “the security situation is likely to continue to deteriorate in 2018 leading to greater health, food security, and protection needs.”

The Islamic group is gaining ground over rural areas, particularly in the north and south of the country, as well as in territories used for opium poppy cultivation, which rose by 67 percent compared to 2016, with the production of opium rising by 87 percent.

Despite the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in its main redoubts in Iraq, the terrorist group is expected to continue fighting against the government, “shifting toward the use of non-traditional conflict strategies and improvised attacks.”

In neighboring Syria, there will be pockets of insecurity, especially in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, and Deir-ez-Zor provinces, the study predicts. The report noted that “the Astana agreements [brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran] over de-escalation zones have been a major political development in 2017, contributing to the perception of an improving security situation in Syria.”

@ACAPSproject The #HumanitarianOverview2018 report is now out: an analysis of key crises into 2018 with likely developments and corresponding #humanitarian needs. Download it here: and please share it!

Next year is likely to be “decisive for the Syria conflict,” as any real or perceived progress in establishing de-escalation zones would change perceptions of the conflict. “This would likely affect third country policies on refugees, and potentially prompt more spontaneous returns,” ACASP said.

In Yemen, ravaged by civil war and the Saudi-led intervention, “civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting.” ACASP says that over 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, and 17 million people are estimated to be food-insecure. The conflict has also prompted aid agencies to fight “one of the worst cholera outbreaks in history affecting more than 910,000 people.”

Despite all efforts, the cholera outbreak is likely to continue due to lack of infrastructure and health systems. “Continuation of the import blockade is likely to deteriorate the situation even further,” it said, adding, “food insecurity is likely to get worse, and most conflict affected areas, particularly the south and west coast, are likely to fall into famine if food access does not improve.”

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UN: At Least 3,900 Children Killed by Boko Haram in Three Years

The latest report showed how Boko Haram committed “grave violations” against children under the conflict in Nigeria.

Children in Northeast Nigeria are under continuous brutalization as Boko Haram's insurgency contiues to terrify the region, a U.N. report concluded.

RELATED: Beset by Economic, Political Woes, Nigerians Protest for Change

The “Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Nigeria” documented the impact of armed conflict on children from January 2013 to December 2016.

It found that at least 3,900 children were killed and 7,300 more maimed due to Boko Haram’s attacks on communities and confrontations with security forces during that period. Suicide attacks became the second leading cause of casualties, which account for over one thousand of child deaths and 2,100 injuries. 

Boko Haram, the Islamist group, had waged a campaign of violence and terror across parts of west and central Africa. It has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others since then. 

"With tactics including widespread recruitment and use, abductions, sexual violence, attacks on schools and the increasing use of children in so-called 'suicide' attacks, Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria's northeast and neighboring countries," Virginia Gamba, the special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, said in a press release. 

The U.N. verified the recruitment and use of 1,650 children by the group, including the use of 90 children for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Many of those children were abducted.

In April 2014, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the small Nigerian town of Chibok. The majority of those girls are still missing, despite a high-profile international campaign of “#BringBackOurGirls” on social media.

Testimonies from children separated from Boko Haram indicated that other children joined the group due to financial incentives, peer pressure, familial ties and for ideological reasons. Some parents also gave up their children to the group in exchange for security guarantees or economic gain. 

Boko Haram fighters then employ the children in "direct hostilities," including for planting improvised explosive devices, to burn schools or houses and in a variety of intelligence-related support roles, the report says.

Schools have been targets of choice for Boko Haram and the U.N. estimates that 1,500 were destroyed since 2014, with at least 1,280 casualties among teachers and students.

The report condemned those violations against children “in the strongest possible terms” and urged all parties to ensure the protection of civilians during armed conflict under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. 

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How 2016 Became the Worst Year for Syrian Children

According to UNICEF the state of affairs of Syrian children has been deteriorating since last year. The organization's latest report published on March 12 suggests that at least 652 children were killed in military clashes in 2016. That is 20% more than last year.

Syrian army soldiers carry flags in the amphitheater of the historic city of Palmyra, Syria March 4, 2017.
Reflections on Six Years of Conflict in Syria        © REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki

About 255 children were killed at or near school. More than 850 children were involved in military hostilities, which is 2.5 times more than that in the previous few years. It should be noted however, that the report statistically accounted for only the officially confirmed cases.

As the war against terrorists rages in Syria the militants are increasingly using children in combat clashes on the front lines and turning them into suicide bombers.

The former regional representative of UNICEF in the Middle East, Ahmed Khalifa, told Sputnik Arabic that these sad figures speak of the great sufferings and troubles of the Syrian children.

“As a result of the six-year conflict about 6 million small Syrian citizens are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” Khalifa said.

He further said that there are 250,000 children living in blockade conditions. These children are in the worst situation because they do not receive any humanitarian assistance.

“They are suffering from diseases that cannot be cured at home without any medical assistance or prescriptions,” the former representative said.

According to UNICEF more than 1 million Syrian children have become displaced  inside Syria, with another 2.3 having fled the country. These children are constantly in danger of getting kidnapped and enslaved.

Earlier, Sputnik reported that, according to estimates made by Norwegian media, six years of war have taken a terrible toll on the mental health of Syrian children.

Every fourth Syrian child was found to be struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, substance abuse and/or depression, a survey conducted by Save the Children reveals. Two out of three children surveyed also answered they had lost a loved one, had their home destroyed or sustained war-related injuries themselves, the Norwegian news portal ABC Nyheter reported.

Save the Children surveyed 458 children and adolescents in all 14 of Syria's provinces (governorates) to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Syrian war. Of those interviewed, 80 percent said they had become more aggressive, 71 percent suffered from bedwetting and involuntary urination, 51 percent resorted to drugs to cope and 50 percent admitted that they never felt safe, be it at home or at school.

These are possibly signs of so-called "toxic stress," i.e., prolonged stress that can lead to life-long issues with learning, behavior and health.

Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad fighting a number of opposition factions and extremist groups.

Russia has been carrying out regular humanitarian aid deliveries to various parts of Syria and has been facilitating the distribution of UN aid in Syria where a civil war has been ongoing since 2011.

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‘Dying in silence’: Suffering of Syrian children at its worst, millions under attack, says UNICEF

There are now nearly 6 million Syrian children suffering from the perils of war, including hundreds who were killed, maimed or recruited to fight in 2016, the worst year on record for Syrian children, a UN watchdog has said.

“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,”said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, speaking from Homs, Syria. “Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.” 


At least 652 children died last year, and 255 of them were killed in or near their schools, the UNICEF report said. That signals a 20 percent increase on the number killed during 2015. 

“A father in Aleppo lives with the trauma of letting his daughters go to school,” Cappelaere said, retelling one of the many heart-breaking stories from the conflict. “They left their makeshift home one morning with their schoolbags on their backs. Only their lifeless bodies returned after a shell slammed into their classroom.”

UNICEF also believes more than 850 children were recruited to take part in hostilities – double the number in 2015 – and were used as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.

While horrifying, the number pales in comparison to the 5.8 million Syrian children who are dependent on humanitarian assistance – a twelvefold increase from 2012, the organization said.

“Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult,” the report added.

Almost half of those in need were displaced, many of them up to seven times, and over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

Child refugees living in relative safety in neighboring countries are still deprived of some basic needs, unable to go to school and forced to beg or do low-paying jobs to make the ends meet, the UNICEF report said.

Unsurprisingly, many children took life-threatening journeys on the so called ‘death boats’ crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Read more Almost six years of Syrian conflict, through eyes of children

Inside Syria, 2.8 million children are living in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 living literally on the battlefield, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.

As the country’s welfare system shrinks, families “are taking extreme measures just to survive, often pushing children into early marriage and child labor,” the report said. “In more than two thirds of households, children are working to support their families, some in extremely harsh conditions unfit even for adults.”

“I don’t know how to read or write. I only know how to draw the sky, the sea and the sun. I’ve waited tables, I served beans, corn, hummus, water pipe, potatoes, seeds. I’ve cleaned the shop and served ice cream to children,” said Fares, a six-year-old Syrian boy now living in Lebanon.

READ MORE: ‘They don’t want to be refugees’: RT sees Syria’s children surviving through war

With the Syrian war about to enter its sixth year, more and more people have become food-insecure. Inadequate food as a result of the protracted violence leads to poor nutrition among children and is weakening their immune system, UNICEF said, stressing that even ordinary diseases are now fatal.

“The situation for Syrian children has hit rock bottom,” said Juliette Touma, UNICEF’s regional spokesperson.

“The past year has been the worst since the crisis began, with children pushed right to the brink – being recruited at an ever younger age, being used to man checkpoints, being trained to use weapons, serving as prison guards. We also have reports of sexual abuse of girls by underage children, so it’s very grim.”

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Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Each Year: WHO

Generva: Each year, environmental pollutants lead to the death of an estimated 1.7 million children under five, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report on Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.

The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children one month to five years old, CNN reported.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement.

"Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases -- such as asthma -- for the rest of their lives, the report stated.

The global body also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.

However, new report highlights that the most common causes -- diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia -- of child death are preventable through interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water, are already available to the communities most affected, reports CNN.

Other potential pollution prevention solutions mentioned in the report are removing mould and pests from housing, removing lead paint, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities.

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Malnutrition Threatens 1.4 Million Children in Many Countries, UNICEF

More than 1.4 million children are in imminent danger of suffering from malnutrition in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, the United Nations Children''s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

According to the specialized agency, the threat could translate into a deplorable reality at any time of the year, unless action is taken.

'Time is running out for these children, but we can still do something to save many lives,' UNICEF CEO Anthony Lake said in a statement.

According to Lake, the famine that endangers so many minors is a response to human actions, especially conflicts over power and crises related to violent extremism.

'Our common humanity calls for immediate action because we cannot afford to repeat 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa,' he said in reference to a phenomenon associated with drought in the region, which affected 13 million people.

UNICEF assures that in Northeastern Nigeria, 450,000 children could be malnourished in the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobi, hit by the fundamentalist militia Boko Haram.

In Yemen, 460,000 children were to suffer the same fate, largely as a result of the conflict that has affected that country of the Arabian Peninsula in recent years, where rebels of Houthi tribe and troops loyal to the government, supported by a foreign coalition led by Saudi Arabia, fight.

With respect to Somalia and South Sudan, the Fund expects the phenomenon to hit 270,000 children in each of these nations, hence the urgency of the international community's response.

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