Very Short Chronicles: Children are the Ones Who Know How to Love

That man of the Golden Age is untouchable, because he is my friend, told me in a park a “tiny fellow” of blue scarf and eyes. He had a fashionable name which I can’t repeat.

What they did, mom, is to betray Cuba, because Martí gave his life so that these streets where they walk were free, says my daughter.

But how dare they taint a homeland symbol with pig's blood? My child wonders and resolves: They must be punished!

Our children don’t allow even hurricanes to mess with Martí. Who will have that right? Martí is sacred.

This could be a very long chronicle, if I was given the task of asking most Cuban children, with all that inflamed, raging innocence, because it could have been the Marti bust of their school, but, above all, because they offended the Martí in their hearts and what lives in there, one cannot toy with, because they are the ones who know how to love.

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A Homeless Christmas for About 150m Children Across the World in 2019

Hard-hit regions like Asia, Africa or Latin America - although the latter saw a decline in street children in the last decade - have become accustomed to the urban imagery of children living on the streets. 

As people across the world celebrate the holidays gathering at home for celebratory dinners with family and friends, while putting together their toy and goodies wish lists; for about 150 million children, according to the United Nations, this will not be such a merry Christmas as they will spend the season in the streets.

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Although homelessness oftentimes conjures up the idea of a single adult living in the streets, in a park bench or under a bridge, the number of families and children, growing up in the streets is an increasing unaddressed problem and it is the holidays that are especially difficult for homeless children, as Barbara Duffield a specialist on homelessness, told CNN.

“There is the psychological aspect of not having the same experience as fellow classmates, who get to decorate their homes, receive presents and celebrate,” the specialist from an organization focused on the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness added.

And these street children - a definition adopted by United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) for any child below the age of 18 years for whom the streets or a deficient dwelling have become their habitual residence - are found both in the developed and underdeveloped world alike. 

For instance, according to the British housing charity Shelter, at least 135,000 children will be homeless and living in temporary accommodation across Britain on Christmas day, the highest number in 12 years.

“They are being uprooted from friends, living in cold, cramped B&Bs and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside,” the shelter’s Chief Executive Polly Neate told The Guardian. 

While in the world’s largest economy, the United States,  the latest available data from the Department of Education shows that over 1.3 million students experienced homelessness in the 2016-17 school year, the highest number ever registered, and the number estimated for children living under this condition is around 2.5 million in the U.S. alone. 

The multidimensional causes of homelessness make it a complex issue that is mostly attributed to economic inequality and poverty, but it can also range from disease resulting in the death of parents, lack of proper housing options or violent conflicts displacing millions across the world. 

“The drivers of homelessness are mainly structural rather than a result of an individual’s agency”, explained Dr. Suzanne Speak, an expert on the state of homelessness in developing countries from Newcastle University.

For the expert, child homelessness is also increasing and in many countries, it is quite common to find households with children living on the street, which can sometimes be very long term, leading to generations of children being born and raised on the streets. 

A common misconception regarding homeless people is that they are the visibly destitute beggars as within developing countries they also include rough sleepers or those in inadequate housing. Such is the case of a family from Australia helped by the NGO Mission Australia.

Craig, his wife Laura and their nine-year-old daughter Sophie couldn’t afford groceries, rent or bills and were forced to spend weeks moving between friends’ homes, but wore out all their welcomes in the days before Christmas. They ended up spending the holiday last year in a tent in an inner-city park.

Like Craig’s family, according to the NGO, more than 116,000 Australians are homeless on any given night. While there is no data about the exact number of homeless people across the European Union, similar cases are more common especially in countries affected by the economic crisis and the migrant influx.

"The European Commission should collect data on homelessness. It is challenging but it is not impossible and it could already do a lot more with the national data that exists. Hidden homelessness, rough sleeping (situations) and people staying in emergency accommodation is really the tip of the iceberg,” Policy Coordinator for the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (Feantsa) Ruth Owen said.

Other hard-hit regions like Asia, Africa or Latin America - although the latter saw a decline in street children in the last decade - have become accustomed to the urban imagery of children living on the streets. 

Argentina saw an overwhelming increase in poverty and homelessness under former right-wing President Mauricio Macri, whose neoliberal policies pushed millions to the streets, including one million children as one in every two children in Argentina lives in poverty.  

In Haiti’s biggest slums an estimated 80,000 people, many of whom lost their houses after the 2010 earthquake, live in inhabitable conditions. 

In Western Africa, according to a peer-reviewed academic article from the Universities of Jos and Abuja in Nigeria, concluded that children in Africa are endangered and facing dire psychosocial circumstances as millions, around nine million in Nigeria specifically, live in the streets and face dangers such substance abuse and recruitment for criminal gangs or terrorist organizations. 

Yet other places are even far worse such as Yemen dubbed by Unicef one of the worst places to be a child as around 12 million children, a number representing almost all the country’s children, need urgent humanitarian assistance.

Although poverty has been the main driving factor behind children’s homelessness in these regions, it is now migration, due to war and internal displacement, a major reason more street children are flooding the U.S., North Africa, and Europe’s cities. 

About 28 million children are homeless globally due to violent conflict. Almost the same number have had to abandon their homes in search of a better life, according to a 2016 Unicef report. 

“Homelessness is touching young people, that are particularly at risk, migrants in different situations, and women and children, all families, are increasingly affected by homelessness in Europe", Feantsa’s official added.

As millions of children will endure Christmas on the streets, the world celebrated on Nov. 20 the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the most widely and rapidly adopted international treaty in history. However, as Unicef noted last month, it is the poorest children that have the most disadvantage still at risk due to poverty, discrimination, and marginalization. 

So as presents are unwrapped, families feast and glasses clink on Dec. 24, millions will face a homeless Christmas in a trend that seems will only keep growing due to increasing inequality, conflicts, massive migration, and climate change.

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Cuban cochlear implant program benefits over 500 patients

The Cuban cochlear implant program has benefited more than 500 patients since its creation on December 4, 1997, at the initiative of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.

This project benefits hearing impaired children, especially deaf-blind, and allows them a better quality of life through improved communication and language skills.

The protocol for this treatment includes a candidate selection stage, implant placement and device rehabilitation and support, an expert pointed out during a conference.

The high-tech procedure, the specialist added, requires a rehabilitation process to adapt the devices for the perception of sounds, taking into account the characteristics of each patient, which allows school insertion.

Out of the implanted patients, 37 correspond to the group of deafblind patients, who are characterized by a loss of auditory and visual functions.

The cochlear implant consists of the insertion of a device that transforms sounds into electrical signals, which are processed and perceived by patients through this technique.

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Diaz-Canel: Nothing is more important in Cuba than the life of a child

Havana, October 14 (RHC)-- President Miguel Diaz-Canel conveyed his condolences to the parents of Paloma Dominguez Caballero, the one-year-infant who died on October 9 because of health complications resulting from an adverse reaction to a Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccination.

Diaz-Canel wrote on his twitter account that the Public Health Ministry is investigating the event and is taking good care of the other children hospitalized.

 “The political manipulation of adversaries offends and hurts. Nothing is more important to the Cuban Revolution than the life of a child,” he stressed.

A note from the Ministry of Public Health issued Saturday reported about an incident in Habana del Este municipality in which five children reacted adversely to the vaccination and were hospitalized. Of them, Paloma Dominguez died.

No similar incidents have been reported anywhere else on the island.

As a result of this unfortunate event, enemies of the Cuban Revolution have unleashed a political campaign of manipulation intending to tarnish the image of Cuba and its health system, which enjoys worldwide recognition for its achievements.

Edited by Jorge Ruiz Miyares
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Nostalgia in chivichana

I made a bet it would not appear in the encyclopedia, but there it was: f. Cuba. Wooden platform mounted on four wheels and with a mobile front axis, used by the children to slip.

However who reads such definition has little idea on what a chivichana truly is: thundering of steel bearings downhill on the childhood street, laughter and fright on the curves, scolding for torn pants, startle and laughter, much laughs.

This summer, how many chivichanas will be seen during vacations? New technologies are a stronger competition each passing day, but none has been able to compete with that cool air and shot of adrenaline you feel going down a steep hill on a chivichana, hair in disarray and bumping with each pothole.

Antonio Machado, the famous Spanish poet, assured that his childhood was "memories of a clear orchard where a lemon tree grew ripe"; the childhood of many Cuban children who today have grey hair was spent on top of the wheels of a chivichana.

Millions of children worldwide develop asthma annually due to traffic-related pollution

About 4 million children worldwide develop asthma each year because of inhaling nitrogen dioxide air pollution, according to a study published today by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). The study, based on data from 2010 to 2015, estimates that 64 percent of these new cases of asthma occur in urban areas.

The study is the first to quantify the worldwide burden of new pediatric asthma cases linked to traffic-related nitrogen dioxide by using a method that takes into account high exposures to this pollutant that occur near busy roads, said Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH.

"Our findings suggest that millions of new cases of pediatric asthma could be prevented in cities around the world by reducing air pollution," said Anenberg. "Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down NO2 levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions."

The researchers linked global datasets of NO2 concentrations, pediatric population distributions, and asthma incidence rates with epidemiological evidence relating traffic-derived NO2 pollution with asthma development in kids. They were then able to estimate the number of new pediatric asthma cases attributable to NO2 pollution in 194 countries and 125 major cities worldwide.

Key findings from the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health:

  • An estimated 4 million children developed asthma each year from 2010 to 2015 due to exposure to NO2 pollution, which primarily comes motor vehicle exhaust.
  • An estimated 13 percent of annual pediatric asthma incidence worldwide was linked to NO2 pollution.
  • Among the 125 cities, NO2 accounted for 6 percent (Orlu, Nigeria) to 48 percent (Shanghai, China) of pediatric asthma incidence. NO2's contribution exceeded 20 percent in 92 cities located in both developed and emerging economies.
  • The top 10 highest NO2 contributions were estimated for eight cities in China (37 to 48 percent of pediatric asthma incidence) and for Moscow, Russia and Seoul, South Korea at 40 percent.
  • The problem affects cities in the United States as well: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Milwaukee were the top five cities in the U.S. with the highest percentage of pediatric asthma cases linked to polluted air.
  • Nationally, the largest burdens related to air pollution were found in China at 760,000 cases of asthma per year, followed by India at 350,000 and the United States at 240,000.

Asthma is a chronic disease that makes it hard to breathe and results when the lung's airways are inflamed. An estimated 235 million people worldwide currently have asthma, which can cause wheezing as well as life-threatening attacks.

The World Health Organization calls air pollution "a major environmental risk to health" and has established Air Quality Guidelines for NO2 and other air pollutants. The researchers estimate that most children lived in areas below the current WHO guideline of 21 parts per billion for annual average NO2. They also found that about 92 percent of the new pediatric asthma cases that were attributable to NO2 occurred in areas that already meet the WHO guideline.

"That finding suggests that the WHO guideline for NO2 may need to be re-evaluated to make sure it is sufficiently protective of children's health," said Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral scientist at Milken Institute SPH.

The researchers found that in general, cities with high NO2 concentrations also had high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the solutions aimed at cleaning up the air would not only prevent new cases of asthma and other serious health problems but they would also attenuate global warming, Anenberg said.

Additional research must be done to more conclusively identify the causative agent within complex traffic emissions, said the researchers. This effort, along with more air pollution monitoring and epidemiological studies conducted in data-limited countries will help to refine the estimates of new asthma cases tied to traffic emissions, Anenberg and Achakulwisut added.

Story Source:

Materials provided by George Washington University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

100s of children facing terrorism charges after forced confessions – HRW

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report claims that Iraqi and Kurdish governments have imprisoned hundreds of children who have been forced, through torture, into confessing that they are Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) members.

In a damning 53-page report, released Wednesday, HRW alleges that some 1,500 children have been charged with IS terrorism offences. It says that many are based on dubious accusations and forced confessions extracted via torture.

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In addition, 185 foreign children have already been convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to prison, according to Iraqi government officials cited by HRW.

This is despite the fact that international law recognizes children, recruited by armed groups, primarily as victims.

“This sweeping, punitive approach is not justice, and will create lifelong negative consequences for many of these children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for HRW.

Many of the children claim circumstantial evidence, mistaken identity or even personal grievances are behind their detention and that they are sentenced after hastily-prepared trials which can often last mere minutes. They also fear reprisals once they are released.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in particular, has been accused of employing “beatings with plastic pipes, electric cables, or rods; electric shocks; and being forced into stress positions,” to elicit confessions.

Can we all agree on one thing at least: torturing children is wrong. New report from Iraq:

“Iraq and the KRG’s harsh treatment of children looks more like blind vengeance than justice for ISIS crimes,” Becker said. “Children involved in armed conflicts are entitled to rehabilitation and reintegration, not torture and prison.”

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Poverty Strikes Three Out of Four Children in Angola

Poverty now hits three out of four Angolan children, according to a study based on National Statistics Institute's multiple health indicators 2015-2016.

The study The Angolan Child: A Multidimensional Analysis of Child Poverty shows 74 per cent of children under 18 is poor because they suffer from three to seven deprivations, which include nutrition, health, child protection, malaria prevention (the main cause of death here), education and access to water and sanitation.

Only one percent of the infants included in the research do not have deprivations.

The study quantified poverty in that age group using the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) system, developed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

There is also an influence on poverty when living in urban or rural areas, since while in cities it affects 62 percent of children, in the countryside the proportion reaches 96 percent.

Regarding provinces, Cunene (in the south) and Cuanza Sur (in the center) have high rates, 93 and 90 percent, respectively, while Luanda (the capital) and Cabinda (the only one separated territorially from the rest of the country) have the lowest with 54 and 56 percent, respectively.

The sample included 41,647 children from all over the country.

Unicef's representative in Angola, Abubacar Sultam, called for more government and other civil society actors' efforts to benefit parents or guardians of these children and adolescents to change their situation.

According to the 2014 population and housing census, 13,791,482 people under age 18 live in the country.

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