November 19 2003
Universal Children's Day: Remembering Children in Conflict Areas
19/11/2003 - Universal Children's Day on November 20 has served to promote the plight of children worldwide since 1954. This year, while commemorating all of the children of the world, SOS Children's Villages would like to draw special attention to the suffering of children in conflict areas.
Universal Children's Day on November 20 was first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954 and has, since then, served to promote the welfare of the world's children. Children around the globe are encouraged to engage in mutual exchange and understanding, while adults everywhere are called upon to improve the situation of the world's youngest citizens.
Over the past decade, some progress was made to improve the lives of children across the globe. But the problem is far from being solved, and the situation of children in many parts of the world remains dire. Those particularly affected are in poverty and crisis-stricken regions, where 1.2 billion people live on less than one US dollar a day. Of these, 600 million are children under the age of five.*
This year, while commemorating all of the world's children, SOS Children's Villages would like to draw special attention to the devastating living conditions of those growing up in areas of war and violence. Currently, more than 50 areas of the world are affected by bloody conflicts. Children in these areas do not live accordingly to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and are, in many cases, deprived of security, food, clean water, health services and educational facilities.
SOS Children's Villages is an organisation providing humanitarian aid for children in 132 countries and territories, some of which are zones of ongoing conflict. SOS Children's Villages remains in these areas and makes long-term commitments to the children there, long after media attention has turned its attention away.
The escalation of crisis in Liberia in July 2003, for example, dramatically worsened the already destitute living conditions in the Northwest African country. An estimated 1.3 million people, mostly children and women, are increasingly vulnerable to disease. The numbers of those suffering from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and cholera have risen considerably.*
During the peak of the conflict, some 7,500 Liberians sought refuge on the premises of SOS Children's Villages in the capital Monrovia, while the organisation's other village in the interior city of Juah Town had to be evacuated in May 2003. As part of its extensive humanitarian work in Liberia, which began in the late 1970s, SOS Children's Villages quickly adapted an abandoned building in Monrovia to serve as a First Aid Clinic where free medical care is still being provided.
In the Palestinian territories, some 500 children have been killed since the start of the current intifada and a further 9,000 injured, of which several hundred have permanent disabilities. Over the years, significantly greater numbers of children are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychological syndrome causing, among others, insomnia, vomiting and loss of voice or consciousness.*
To address this problem in the Palestinian territories, SOS Children's Villages, in April 2003, launched a Mobile Centre providing adequate therapy for children throughout the West Bank. The mobile centre, consisting of a large lorry and trailer that were adapted into a medical centre, aims to travel and help children throughout the West Bank - security permitting and providing Israeli officials grant the necessary travel permits.
Due to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, the country now has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Immunization is a key concern in Afghanistan, where some 35,000 children die per year of diseases such as measles. An estimated 400,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict, while a further five million Afghans have sought refuge in neighbouring Pakistan over the past years.*
SOS Children's Villages has been running an emergency relief programme for Afghan refugees in Pakistan since October 2001, providing health care, education and recreation for children. The facilities include an SOS Medical Centre, two paediatric basic health care units, three safe children's playgrounds and two schools for girls who had never before received any form of education.
The list of ongoing conflict zones is long. The above are just three examples of conflict areas where SOS Children's Villages has made long-term commitments to improve the lives of children. On Universal Children's day, SOS Children's Villages asks the world to remember children in these areas, while at the same time celebrate all of the children across the globe.
Universal Children's Day - Some More Facts
November 20 is an important international day for children. On 20 November 1954, the UN General Assembly established Universal Children's Day. Five years later, on November 20, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed on 20 November 1989 and has, so far, been ratified by 192 countries.
* Statistics Source: UNICEF