By UNICEF’s NextGen Steering Committee member, Elizabeth Yale
NextGen member Sterling McDavid at the child protection center, joining in the activity discussing child abuse.
All of the programs Next Gen supports are fascinating and unique in their own way, but I was particularly excited when we voted to support child protection programs in Vietnam back in 2012. While Vietnam has grown into a more developed country and is bettering the lives of its children in so many ways over the past few decades, its legal system was still lacking an important distinction between children and adults when it came to run-ins with the law. An 11-year-old boy caught stealing was interrogated by police, the same way as an adult, and a child who had been abused would often be put in the same room as her abuser during questioning. The funds NextGen raised went toward supporting police training, the creation of child friendly interrogation rooms, and other programs aimed at protecting Vietnam’s most vulnerable children. The Vietnam country office was generous enough to give us the opportunity to visit the country and see the projects we funded, and I jumped at the opportunity!
In Ho Chi Minh City we visited Thao Dan, a center we helped fund that targets street children who are at risk of abuse, violence, drugs, exploitation, and trafficking, and gives them a safe place to study, play, share their experiences, and learn valuable life skills. The children were very open to sharing their stories and it was remarkable to see first-hand how a child who had been living on the streets could transform into a happy, smiley, playful child when given the right environment and support.
Police training session, with NextGen members listening in in the back
We also had the opportunity to visit a police training session on child friendly interrogation and interview techniques. One of my fellow NextGeners actually shared her own story of almost getting arrested here in the United States as a teenager, and it really helped the policemen understand that children should feel that they can trust the police and not be scared or intimidated by them.
One of my favorite experiences of the visit was meeting a police chief in the Lai Vung district. He invited us to witness a child friendly interrogation, but unfortunately with how hard he was trying to impress us, things got pretty bungled. Rather than try to cover up the mistakes, the police chief humbled himself and explained that this was all new to the station and he and his staff still needed a lot of training. He told us how he had attended a training session in Hanoi in child friendly interrogation techniques and was so inspired that he took it upon himself to pilot one of the first child-friendly interrogation rooms in the country in his own station and train all of his staff himself. Even though there was still necessary training to be done, their ability to successfully interview child crime victims had already risen from 30-40% to 70-80% - which meant they could protect a lot more children.
It’s witnessing these types of individual transformation and dedication to improving the lives of children that make field visits so inspiring. This experience re-invigorated us to continue advocating and supporting these amazing, life-changing projects around the world.
Read more on the Next Generation’s impact on Vietnam, visit: http://www.unicefusa.org/supporters/donors/nextgen/impact/vietnam
To join UNICEF’s Next Generation, visit: www.unicefusa.org/joinnextgeneration
UNICEF and Ethiopia
UNICEF has been working in Ethiopia since 1952 and is now the go-to organization for children in all regions of the country. Today, because of UNICEF’s help, Ethiopia is on target to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by half in 2015. Working closely with the Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF Ethiopia is especially trying to protect children and women from practices in Ethiopia that are detrimental to their human rights.
Hannah Godefa, a 16-year old Canadian girl born to Ethiopian parents, has been a UNICEF national ambassador to Ethiopia since January 2013. She is especially concerned with girls’ and women’s rights, particularly with their education status and opportunities. Hannah has been visiting Ethiopia as a UNICEF ambassador since she received the position, and works to promote girls’ education. Hannah’s message to Ethiopian students is “that education is the key to their success.” She also said, “Children are endowed with bright minds; if they are allowed to get good education they are capable of changing the world.”
Hannah realizes that cultural barriers and family responsibilities prevent girls from receiving proper schooling. In 2013, Hannah formed the Pencil Mountain Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating equal education opportunities for children in developing countries by providing school resources to children abroad. The organization has sent pencils, textbooks, and even wheelchairs for disabled students.
Hannah is proud of her work in Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa. Having Ethiopian roots also helps her understand the cultural mindsets of the people she is working to support.
UNICEF is extremely proud of the work that Hannah and other national ambassadors are doing. With the help of these motivated and passionate individuals, UNICEF’s mission will be fulfilled more quickly, and more and more children around the world will have their lives improved.
Read more about Hannah here:
This is Susan Bissell
“In no country that I have lived and worked have I not been faced with some of the most extreme forms of violence against children that we could imagine,” says Susan Bissell.
Susan started to work with UNICEF in 1987, and has served in various positions with UNICEF in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Haiti, Guatemala and Ethiopia, all of which have been affected by children trafficking issues. Susan is dedicated and passionate about the protection of children. As she says, “[the] vulnerability faced by children as they are outside of households is extreme. Their exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation [is] far too real.”
A native of Canada, Susan completed her master’s degree in Law, Economics and International Relations at the University of Toronto, and pursued a doctoral degree in public health and medical anthropology at the WHO Key Center for Women’s Health at the University of Melbourne.
Child Trafficking: The Issue
Around the world, millions of children are being exploited every day, through an astonishing array of practices including forced labor, domestic servitude, begging, sex tourism, sexual violence, and child soldiering. Many children are forced to work in hazardous conditions, sold into marriage or prostitution, and offered to illegal adoptions. It is extremely difficult to calculate the exact numbers of trafficked since child trafficking is mostly hidden, and victims often fearful of coming forward.
Child trafficking violates the human rights guaranteed to children under international law, most notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Their social and educational development is often stunted. They are even arrested and detained as illegal aliens, since many of them are without identity. They often have little or no access to their parents or other support services.
Susan Bissell and the End Trafficking Movement
While completing her doctorate, Susan co-produced the documentary A Kind of Childhood. The documentary exposes a world where children are expected to make a living, where working is part of their daily lives, and where education is just a dream. It explores the reality of child labor and speaks out for children’s rights, their desires, and their dreams. Susan also supported the production of Not My Life, a documentary filmed on five continents, which introduces stories of children who are abducted and “slave-traded” at young ages, and who are exploited every day.
In 2011, Susan came back to UNICEF and served as the Chief of Child Protection in India. Three years later, she transferred to the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center, where she led a 62-country study on implementing the general measures of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and global research on the Palermo Protocol and child trafficking.
Susan was appointed to be Chief of Child Protection in New York in 2009. She continues to work for children affected by armed conflict and on strengthening child protection systems to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children.
Images from the film Not My Life, more info can be found at: https://vimeo.com/55651773
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010 -0180/Susan Markisz
For more on Susan Bissell, visit: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_49875.html
For more on Not My Life, visit: http://notmylife.org/film-synopsis
Factsheet on child trafficking, retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/files/ipuglobaltrafficking.pdf
To Join UNICEF’s Next Generation, visit: www.unicefusa.org/joinnextgeneration
When Typhoon Haiyan – locally know as Yolanda – hit the Philippines shore, Jerome Nabong, a 13-year-old boy, lost his home. He is among the 4.1 million people who were displaced by the typhoon. Jerome is now living in a makeshift snack with his parents and five siblings.
Vilma Nabong, another typhoon survivor, lives in a shabby shack. Her children are scared by this disaster, they cry and ask to go to an emergency shelter.
Gwendolyn was born a week before Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban. Her home was destroyed and washed away by the storm and her parents had to stay in a shelter with another 300 families. Only in the shelter were they able to get water from the municipal system that UNICEF and its partners had repaired. The family also received a hygiene kit with bath and laundry soap, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes and toothpaste. With the hygiene kit, Jhana, Gwendolyn’s mother, were able to bathe her baby the first time since the storm. Life-saving interventions like these, crucial to warding off deadly diseases, became paramount in the wake of the typhoon, which left millions in desperate need.
The typhoon left nothing but devastation and stole about 6,000 lives. Roughly 14.1 million people were affected; 5.9 million of them were children. Over a million pre-school and school-aged children were out of school and close to 31,600 teachers were affected. Those hardest hit were on coastal and inland areas of Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, northern Cebu and Panay Island. Before the typhoon hit, these communities were already among the Philippines’ most vulnerable – with 40 percent of children living in poverty.
What UNICEF has accomplished
For these families, clean drinkable water is a top concern. After the typhoon, water systems were broken down with many water sources contaminated. Responding to the urgent need of clean water and the increased risk of water-borne diseases, UNICEF helped restore access to safe water for more than 1 million people through distribution of water storage and treatment supplies. Jerome and his family are among those who obtained access to safe water. They also received a UNICEF hygiene kit with toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, and bath and laundry soap. To keep child illnesses at bay – especially diarrhea – UNICEF and partners delivered hygiene supplies to more than 450,000 children in schools, alongside messages on best hygiene practices.
Over a million children like Jerome have lost access to education because of Typhoon Haiyan, which damaged or destroyed almost 3,200 schools and day care centers. Bringing these children back to school is among the top priorities for UNICEF. In the six months since the typhoon hit the Philippines, UNICEF and partners have provided 470,000 children with learning materials in affected areas. Some 135,000 children benefitted from 1,351 UNICEF-supported ‘temporary learning spaces’ equipped with school-in-a-box kits, and recreational and early childhood and development materials.
Children color in a child-friendly space in Tacloban. © UNICEF/Pirozzi
To ensure a safe and supportive environment for the children, over 5,000 social work professionals and caregivers were reached with psychosocial training for children and prevention of violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking training.
In partnership with Action Against Hunger, UNICEF has been offering monthly Unconditional Cash Transfers of $100 to 10,000 of the most vulnerable households over a six month period. Families with children with disabilities, illnesses, elderly and children orphaned or malnourished, pregnant and lactating women, and those which are female-headed and child-headed are included. The cash transfer is crucial to the families in that it enables them to buy essential grocery, and pay for health care services. Some families use the money to invest in livestock and farming, which can benefit them in the long run.
Nybo, T. (2014). Retrieved from http://weshare.unicef.org/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult_VPage&VBID=2AM4WNUAWI6H#/SearchResult_VPage&VBID=2AM4WNUAWGRM
UNICEF. (2014). UNICEF in the Philippines: Six months after super Typhoon Haiyan.
This is Issra, an Iraqi fourth grader. Because of the violence in Iraq, she has been displaced to Khazar Camp, a refugee camp outside the city of Mosul, in the northern part of the country. She and her family left their town because they were afraid of the shootings happening nearby. Issra is worried about her friends, schoolmates, and neighbors who remain in the conflict area. She wants to return to school and her normal life, she wants to read and study and she has motivation, energy and a drive to learn. Unfortunately, because of her situation, she cannot pursue her goals. Read more about Issra and other displaced Iraqi children here: http://unicefiraq.tumblr.com/
The current violence and instability in Iraq caused UNICEF to declare a level 3 emergency in June. Since Sunni jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the Iraqi city of Mosul, they have begun to seize even more towns and cities across the country. However, the crisis started long before June. Since January 2014, over 1.1 million Iraqi citizens have been displaced from their homes. Half of these refugees are children.
UNICEF is working hard to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of displaced children stay safe. UNICEF is not only working to protect Iraqi children, but also the Syrian refugee children who migrated to the displacement camps in Iraq from their homes. Unfortunately, when these Syrian refugees came into Iraq, they brought polio with them. This has caused a polio emergency in Iraq, a country which had eradicated polio 14 years ago. Emergency immunization campaigns have started, but the outbreak of violence has disrupted the efforts to provide vaccines. Additionally, a waterborne disease outbreak is imminent because of unclean water in the refugee camps.
UNICEF has been extremely productive in its efforts to help all the displaced children. As of June 24th, UNICEF has delivered over 70,000 liters of drinking water, over 3,500 hygiene kits, over 5,000 food parcels, 1,000,000 polio vaccines, and 15,000 sets of recreation materials.
It is imperative that we help all of these displaced children get back on their feet. UNICEF Iraq has been trying to lift their spirits by creating soccer matches in honor of the World Cup, playing with the children, educating them about diseases, and providing them with food and water. Not only are these children displaced from their homes and from their families, but they are missing out on being “kids” and having recreation and education.
The four level 3 crises that are happening around the world just provide more of an incentive to help children stay safe, healthy, and above all, to stay children.
This is Chrystel, a 12 year old girl who is one of the 6000,000 internally displaced citizens of Central African Republic. She is not enrolled in school and says “I want to go back to school. I’ve been living here for four months, and I miss my school friends.”
#NOLostGeneration. #BringBackOurGirls. These taglines are proof that girls’ education is starting to appear in popular media, which is incredibly important: Today few things make bigger waves than a hashtag. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in his blog, “nothing can be more transformative for a society than educating girls and then moving those educated women into the formal labor force.” He was writing about the 270 school girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria, yet all around the world education is becoming collateral damage in conflicts that are happening at a much larger scale.
As a result of a rebel offensive that started in December 2012 and a seizure of power on March 24, 2013, the country has descended into a humanitarian crisis and the intensification of violence has perpetuated fear and instability throughout the region. Most recently, the fighting taking place in Bangui has deteriorated the situation on the ground, which escalated the crisis to a level 3 emergency earlier this year. The conflict in Central African Republic has affected approximately 4.6 million people. Half of these are children like Chrystel. Over 600,000 people are internally displaced and there are 211,000 refugees outside of the country in Chad, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congo.
The crisis has taken an extreme toll on these kids, particularly on their education- and their futures. “The education system is literally on its knees,” said Souleymane Diabaté, UNICEF Representative in Central African Republic. “Many teachers have not been paid for months; there are no textbooks; the little infrastructure that existed before the crisis has been damaged.” Children should not be forced to abandon their education during times of conflict- this when they need it the most.
In emergency situations, UNICEF and partners promote quality education through the child-friendly model. This means that classrooms are safe and clean, that teachers are trained and that they have enough resources, and that children’s rights are protected. These child-friendly learning spaces provide a much-needed refuge for children affected by conflict, natural disasters, or other emergencies. In 2014, UNICEF aims to place 95,000 children in child-friendly spaces, and the focus will be on children who are out of school. UNICEF and its partners will also work to open temporary learning spaces, distribute educational supplies, and support the reopening of schools in CAR. During times of conflict, children should not have to go without education, and in CAR, 70% of the children are out of school. Chrystel is one of the many children who cannot attend school, but long to go back.
More than 1 million people, nearly half of them children, have been displaced by the conflict in South Sudan since December. Nearly 250,000 children are at risk for dangerous levels of malnutrition, and if they are not treated, up to 50,000 children under the age of 5 could die. The conflict has hijacked the lives of the children of South Sudan. They are witnesses to violence, are without education, and are lacking their fundamental rights. Many have been attacked, orphaned, lost, or have been recruited into armed forces.
Meet Daniel. Daniel is one of the South Sudanese citizens displaced due to the conflict. In February, he fled the violence in Bor, in the center of the country, and came to Mingkaman, an Internally Displaced Persons Camp located south of Bor along the White Nile River. Before conflict erupted last December, Daniel worked as the Education Supervisor in Bor County. Even though he is currently displaced, his passion for children’s education is still strong as ever, and he believes that children need to be in school, learning and recovering.
“We cannot afford to have our children lose out anymore, going to school is the only way they will recover,” said Daniel.
Daniel’s belief that education should never be interrupted, even during times of conflict, led him to organize community members to enroll their children in temporary learning spaces in Mingkaman that were set up by UNICEF’s partner, Save the Children International. He also encouraged teachers who are displaced and volunteers to start working again. Although many did not want to go back to work because they were not being paid, all of the teachers supervised by Daniel have reported to work and are teaching displaced students.
We applaud the work of people like Daniel who are making a difference during intense conflict. Daniel, like UNICEF, believes that conflict should not interrupt education for children. During times of conflict, which is when children are among the most vulnerable, it is important that children do not lose their right to an education.
March 15th will mark the third anniversary of the brutal conflict in Syria that has impacted and hijacked the lives of 5.5 million children in the region. More than 1 million children are refugees and more than 2 million children are out of school, due to the conflict. The violation of the rights of Syrian children is unacceptable and we cannot sit by and allow them to be casualties.
UNICEF has been on the ground since the start of the conflict, and it will continue to further expand the services it provides this year. In 2014, UNICEF will reach 3.9 million children through a comprehensive program that will give children quality education through school rehabilitation, remedial education, self-learning, early childhood development, psychosocial support and the provision of school supplies. Additionally, UNICEF will continue to monitor and verify violations of the rights of children. UNICEF will also scale up its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program and will actively work to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases in the region.
The children of Syria have witnessed horrific displays of violence and many have suffered firsthand due to the conflict. Syrian children have lost loved ones, have been forced to flee their homes, and have been subjected to many more injustices. A United Nations report released in early February conveyed the severity of the violations of children’s rights in Syria. Children as young as 11 have been detained by government forces, and they have been tortured and sexually abused. Children have also been recruited by rebel forces for combat purposes.
Deprived of their basic needs, the chance to learn and grow, and the security of a stable childhood, an entire generation of children is being shaped by conflict, displacement, and despair, and could be lost forever – with profound long-term consequences for Syria, the region, and the world.
As we approach the end of the third year of the conflict on March 15, UNICEF and its partners have launched No Lost Generation – a massive public call to stop the violence and suffering for children, ensure humanitarian access and respect for humanitarian law, and invest in protection, education, support, and peace building. Sign this pledge to call on world leaders to end the conflict and to tell world leaders that you support:
• An end to the violence against the #childrenofsyria.
• An end to the blocking of humanitarian assistance.
• An end to attacks on humanitarian workers and facilities, especially schools and hospitals.
• A renewed commitment to reconciliation and tolerance.
• More investment in the education and psychological protection of all children affected by the conflict.
Did you know that in one day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water? This is equivalent to building the Empire State Building 28 times each day! (www.Water.org)
Access to clean and safe water and sanitation is a necessity that most of us take for granted. There are about 768 million people around the world who lack access to clean water, and there are approximately 2.5 billion people who do not have access to an improved sanitation facility, such as a toilet (www.unicefusa.org). Diarrheal diseases are the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 in developing nations (www.who.int). Death from diarrheal diseases can be largely prevented if children have access to clean water, sanitation, and are informed about proper hygiene practices.
UNICEF currently works in more than 100 countries to increase access to clean and safe water sources and sanitation facilities. Additionally, UNICEF works in schools and communities to promote better hygiene practices. The aim of UNICEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene WASH programs is to promote the protection, survival, and development of children. Since 1990, through the help of UNICEF and its partners, more than 2 billion people have gained access to clean and safe drinking water (www.unicefusa.org).
The UNICEF Tap Project is a U.S. based campaign that provides access to clean water and adequate sanitation to children around the world. Since 2007, The Tap Project has raised more than $4.2 million, and it has helped improve the lives of millions of children around the world through innovative and high-profile fundraising campaigns (www.unicefusa.org).
This year’s Tap Project campaign is especially innovative, since it will challenge people to go without their smartphones! Having access to a phone is one of the many things we take for granted. For every minute a person can go without touching their phone, a donation from sponsors like Next Generation will be released to fund WASH programs around the world. We are raising 100,000 for UNICEF’s Tap Project, so that we can help children in need who do not have access to clean and safe water.
With just $1, UNICEF can give a child access to clean water for 40 days (www.unicefusa.org). We believe that ZERO children should be dying from diseases by not having access to clean water and sanitation. Let’s reach our goal of $100,000, so that we can help give children in need access to clean water and adequate sanitation, which are luxuries we take for granted.
About 6 months ago, UNICEF’s Next Generation adopted our 9th project: funding the development of three UNICEF innovations labs in Southeast Asia. These labs will join a network of innovation centers around the world that offer children the opportunity to devise solutions to the problems that are affecting their communities by partnering with local leaders, government and NGO representatives, educators and product developers.
Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Pristina, Kosovo with Casey Rotter, founder of UNICEF’s Next Generation, and meet 35 UNICEF innovators at the first UNICEF Innovations Summit. With representation from Afghanistan, Chile, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and more, I learned about UNICEF programs such as RapidFTR,RapidSMS, uReport, and so many creative solutions to problems affecting the most vulnerable children in the world. While participating in brainstorms, fail faires, sharing best practices and challenges, we came up with an idea… Next Gen Innovation Pen Pals!
Innovation Brainstorming. Photo credit: Danielle Abraham
While Next Gen is focused on fundraising for the development of three new labs, what if it was possible for us to also support the innovative work being done by UNICEF representatives in over 20 countries? What if Next Gen members based in the United States could leverage their skills, expertise and knowledge in a specific field to support lifesaving work around the world by remotely volunteering a few hours of their time every week?
We were at a big group dinner the final night of the Summit when Chris Fabian, Co-Lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit asked Casey and me to stand up and share this possibility with our new friends around the table. With the immediate cheers and shouts of requests from many at the table, it was clear they were excited.
Upon returning to NYC, we shared this idea with the Next Gen Steering Committees and they were just as excited! Currently, all UNICEF innovation leads have been invited to submit a request for a Next Gen Pen Pal by sending Casey a brief list of what kind of support would be most helpful, so the U.S. Fund for UNICEF can best match them with a Next Gen Steering Committee member. Each assignment will vary by country and while the majority of the work will be done remotely from the US, there may be opportunities for Next Gen members to travel to the country they are partnered with.
The goal of this program is to deepen the engagement of Next Gen members by educating Next Gen on UNICEF’s work and strengthening our knowledge and affinity for UNICEF’s programs, while completing specific tasks and consulting pro bono for a UNICEF innovation lead.
This is an incredible and unprecedented opportunity; Next Gen cannot wait to get started!
Next Generation Founding Steering Committee Member
Originally posted at www.unicefstories.org
See also a short video about the Innovations Summit in Kosovo here