Once again, young girls pay the price simply for being born female:
Five young girls slipped briefly into comas and nearly 100 were taken to hospital after a gas attack on their school on Tuesday, the third in a series of such incidents north of Kabul, Afghan officials said.
The early morning mass-poisoning at Qazaaq school was likely the work of Taliban sympathizers hostile to girls’ education, the head of security for Kapisa province told Reuters.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUC, announced today that it has freed nearly two dozen children from the ranks of the country’s armed forces this week.
For a mission that is catching some flak right now for allegedly working with an indicted war criminal, it’s worth remembering that these peacekeepers do all sorts of good stuff. Such as rescuing child soldiers. Rescuing a lot of child soldiers.
(image of former child soldier, from United Nations Photo)
*Post updated with exclusive photos!
UN Dispatch readers in the greater New York City metro area should head down to Pier 41 tomorrow evening for what should be a rather interesting spectacle. Some 20 UN ambassadors, including Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, will “shed their suits and ties for soccer shoes and shorts” and play a 60 minute 7-on-7 soccer match. Team captains include Chile’s UN Ambassador Heraldo Munoz and Liechtenstiein ambassador Christian Wenaweser. No joke!
The match is organized by my old pal, Jakob Silas Lund, who founded a non-profit called Play 31. The organization draws its name Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which, ahem, the United States is yet to ratify). Article 31, stipulates that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” Accordingly, Play 31 raises money to provide children in war affected countries the tools (i.e. soccer balls) to exercise that right.
The match tomorrow evening will benefit children in Sierra Leone. And even if you can’t make it to the match tomorrow you can follow the action on the Play 31 blog.
UPDATE: UN Dispatch obtains photos of the match via friend of Dispatch Jacob R. Boersema
Ban lacing up before the match.
As World Autism Awareness Day – designated by the United Nations as Tuesday, April 2 – winds down, the spotlight is on why the disorder is on the increase, why the causes still elude researchers, and why early diagnosis is so important.
“We know autism is on the rise and we know there is a genetic predisposition,” says Dr. Cathy Pratt, board chairperson for the Autism Society of America (www.autism-society.org). “The controversy is over what is the trigger that actually causes it to occur. A lot of research is on what triggers it. I think that we will find that there are multiple causes. It’s not like a broken arm.”
On Huffington Post, Peter Brown, a friend of Yoko Ono, writes:
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was passed unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 2008. Along with AIDS and diabetes, autism is one of only three health issues to be so observed by the UN. In addition to promoting worldwide knowledge of the autism epidemic and the importance of early intervention, WAAD celebrates the unique creative talents and skills of people with autism, and features community events around the world where individuals with autism are celebrated.
Please go online to bid on a unique “puzzle piece of art”, signed by Yoko, at www.worldautismawarenessday.org. Bids start at $1,000. All proceeds go to Autism Speaks, the world’s largest advocacy organization for autism awareness and research. With each winning bid is the promise that when the cure for autism is finally found, all pieces will be reassembled to mark the last World Autism Awareness Day.
The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health estimates that over a million people lose their lives to violence and millions more are injured and maimed every year. The report states that violence is “among the leading causes of death among people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females.” What’s so disturbing is the myriad forms this violence takes and how deeply pervasive and borderless it is. Across the globe and across the centuries, humans have committed the most barbaric acts, limited only by their imaginations, and the march of civilization has done little to change the grim reality that on any given day, in every corner of our planet, gruesome and ungodly things are done to women, children and men. In Beirut during the 70s and early 80s, I witnessed terrible acts of violence, car bombs at supermarkets and missile strikes on residential neighborhoods, bloody bodies and corpses in the street, the carnage of urban warfare. It has made me keenly attuned to the darker aspects of human nature, the willingness to brutalize one another. Four decades on this planet and I still cannot fathom how a man can rape a baby, how people can gas, hack, strangle, shoot, smother, burn, and torture their fellow humans. Rather than become dulled and inured from violence overload, I am ever more appalled and horrified by it. Take this CNN report on gang-raping little girls in Darfur:
Can we even imagine the anguish felt by these young victims and their families? Can words and images conjure their REAL suffering and fear?
You hear a lot of terrible news out of Eastern Congo these days. And rightly so. An overwhelmed and undermanned UN peacekeeping mission is struggling to keep a peace that does not exist. Still, there are occasional stories like this that demonstrate the great value that even a struggling peacekeeping mission can bring to a situation like this.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has demobilized 880 children associated with armed groups in the volatile eastern province of North Kivu between 30 January and 2 March, it was announced today.
Madnodje Mounoubai, spokesperson for the mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, told a news conference in Kinshasa that the great majority of the 839 boys and 41 girls are Congolese, but there are also 31 Rwandans, two Burundians and two Ugandans.
All of the children were handed over to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for their return and reintegration into their families and communities, after they were demobilized by MONUC’s Child Protection Unit.
Unicef just posted a pretty powerful video on the subject.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.