Sudan is world’s most dangerous place for children, says Reuters AlertNet poll
11 July 2006. LONDON - Sudan, Uganda and Congo are the world’s three most dangerous places for children due to wars that have brought death, disease and displacement to millions, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.
Reuters AlertNet, a humanitarian news website run by Reuters Foundation, asked more than 110 aid experts and journalists to highlight the world’s most dangerous places to be a child.
After Sudan, they chose northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, India, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Myanmar - with the top three clearly ahead.
Around half of respondents picked Sudan, with many singling out the troubled western region of Darfur. The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 1.8 million children have been affected by a three-year conflict in Darfur, where they risk being recruited as fighters and are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.
"It is a traumatised population and you can see it in the children’s faces. Everyone has lost family, seen villages burn, seen relatives raped, been raped,” said Hollywood actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, who last month visited camps for some of the 2.5 million displaced by Darfur’s war.
During a brutal, two-decade insurgency in Uganda, the cult-like rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has kidnapped up to 25,000 children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves. Each evening, around the same number of child “night commuters” walk into towns to avoid abduction.
“The most dangerous places are those conflict zones where children are actively recruited into the fighting forces, and the current worst offender...is Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Its recruiting, indoctrination and battle tactics have left countless children either dead, or dreadfully physically or mentally scarred,” said Gareth Evans, head of the International Crisis Group think tank.
Congo’s first free elections in 40 years, set for the end of July, are meant to draw a line under its 1998-2003 war that killed millions, but conflict still simmers in the lawless east, where disease, hunger and violence kill about 1,200 a day.
Efforts towards peace are also under way in the poll’s second and third top danger spots, but that hasn’t meant much to the millions of children suffering the fallout, according to Mark Jones, editor of Reuters AlertNet. “All too often formal ceasefires don’t bring an end to fighting or the accompanying malnutrition and disease that tend to kill many more than physical violence.”
The poll underlined the psychological trauma experienced by children caught up in violence – as in Iraq.
“Children who are seeing such violence on a daily basis will remain traumatised for a long time, especially when parents or elder siblings end up being killed,” said Sam Chimwaza, Malawi country representative for the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET).
Respondents who chose the Palestinian territories cited the long-term strain of living in a place with limited freedom of movement and access to basic services.
Somalia and Afghanistan, where warlords are battling for political power, featured due to deteriorating security and widespread poverty. More than a quarter of children in Afghanistan and a fifth of children in Somalia die before their fifth birthday.
Many children living in poverty are forced to work to support themselves and their families. A large proportion of the world’s 218 million child workers are located in India, which came sixth in the poll.
In Russia’s breakaway Chechnya republic, fighting has displaced at least 95,000 people and UNICEF says 99 percent of residents live below the official Russian poverty line.
Child soldiers were a key reason why respondents picked Myanmar, where the military junta is accused of forcing tens of thousands of children to fight.
U.N. aid chief Jan Egeland called on the international community to boost efforts to tackle children’s issues around the world. “We must do more to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particularly as they relate to children, who are, of course, our future,” he said.
Notes for Editors
1. The poll’s findings will be the subject of a panel debate at the Foreign Press Association, London at 1400 GMT (1500 BST) on Tuesday, July 11.
For details of the debate, see www.alertnet.org/events/debate
For a live audio feed, see www.alertnet.org/live
2. Reuters AlertNet is a humanitarian news portal run by Reuters Foundation, an educational and charitable trust.
3. The poll was conducted between June 12 and July 6, and there were 112 respondents.
4. UNICEF says more than 2 million children worldwide have died as a direct result of armed conflict in the past decade, and about 20 million have been forced to flee their homes. More than a million have been orphaned or separated from their families.
5. More detailed analysis of the findings, background to the humanitarian emergencies and case studies of children from the survey’s top three countries can be found at http://www.alertnet.org/events/crisispoll
6. The poll and debate will mark the formal launch of ‘MediaBridge’ – a project to help journalists cover humanitarian crises by providing ‘crisis briefings’, media contacts for relief groups at the scene, humanitarian statistics and measurements of how much coverage humanitarian crises receive. More details at http://www.alertnet.org/mediabridge.htm
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