Children Starving Around the World

Proverb 30:14, “There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.”

200 Million Children 'Starving'
November 20, 2009

Twenty years after the UN adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights, 1 billion children are still deprived of food, shelter or clean water, and nearly 200 million are chronically malnourished

There are some bright spots - fewer youngsters are dying and more are going to school, the UN children's agency Unicef said, in a report issued on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Unicef Executive Director Ann Veneman said the convention "has transformed the way children are viewed and treated throughout the world."

"As the first decade of the 21st Century comes to a close, the convention stands at a pivotal moment," she told a news conference.

"Its relevance remains timeless. The challenge for the next 20 years is to build on the progress achieved, working together to reach those children who are still being denied their rights to survival, development, protection and participation."

The convention has the widest support of any human rights treaty, with ratifications legally binding 193 countries to its provisions. But not all countries are implementing its requirements, Veneman said.

Only two countries - the United States and Somalia - have not ratified it. The Clinton administration in the 1990s signed the convention but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because a number of groups argued it infringed on the rights of parents and was inconsistent with state and local laws.

Asked about the US failure to ratify, Veneman said "it is frustrating," but she noted that President Barack Obama and US Ambassador Susan Rice "have expressed a strong desire to move the US in the direction of approving the convention."

Over the past 20 years, she said, more than 70 countries have used the convention to incorporate codes protecting children and ensuring their rights into national legislation.

The convention has also brought measures "to ensure that children are safeguarded from violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation," Veneman said.

Still, "between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are estimated to experience violence annually," the report said.


The report noted one of the convention's most outstanding achievements was the improvement in child survival. The number of deaths of children under five decreased from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008 - a 28 percent decline, it said.

Other pluses were an increase in HIV prevention and treatment for children, and an increase in primary school education.

In 2002, some 115 million children weren't going to school, while in 2007 the number dropped to 101 million, the report said. However, while the gender gap has narrowed, girls are still losing out, it said.

Nevertheless, Unicef said children's rights are far from assured.

"It is unacceptable that children are still dying from preventable causes, like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition," Veneman said in a statement. "Many of the world's children will never see the inside of a school room, and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect."

An estimated 1 billion children lack access to good health care, adequate nutrition, education, clean water, sanitation facilities or adequate shelter.

Children in Africa and Asia suffer the worst deprivation, Veneman said. "More than nine out of 10 children who are not attending school, who are malnourished, and who die before the age of five live in these two continents."

More than 24,000 children under five die every day from largely preventable causes, according to the report. Some 150 million children aged five-14 are engaged in child labour and more than 140 million children under five are underweight for their age, it said.

Unicef said climate and population shifts threaten recent advances in child rights and the convention's 20th anniversary year has been marked by the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"There is a real danger that the repercussions of these shocks will have lifelong consequences that span generations, undermining efforts to advance children's rights for the coming decades," it warned.



Children starving, again, in Ethiopia

By Anita Powell, Associated Press Writer
SHANTO, Ethiopia — This year's poor rains have nearly killed Bizunesh.

The 3-year-old weighs less than 10 pounds. Her long limbs, weak and folded like a praying mantis, cannot carry even her slight weight. She cannot speak. She doesn't want to eat. Health officials say she is permanently stunted.

Bizunesh -- whose name, sadly, means "plentiful" -- is one of untold numbers of children hit by this year's double blow of a countrywide drought and skyrocketing global food prices that has brought famine, once again, to Ethiopia.

"She should be bigger than this," said her mother Zewdunesh Feltam, rocking the listless child. "Before there was maize, different kinds of food. But now there is nothing ... I beg for milk from my neighbors."

The U.N. children's agency said in a statement Tuesday an estimated 126,000 Ethiopian children urgently need food and medical care because of severe malnutrition -- and called the current crisis "the worst since the major humanitarian crisis of 2003."

The U.N. World Food Program estimates that 2.7 million Ethiopians will need emergency food aid because of late rains -- nearly double the number who needed help last year. An additional 5 million of Ethiopia's 80 million people receive aid each year because they never have enough food, whether harvests are good or not.

In Shanto, a southwestern agricultural area that grows sweet potatoes, recent rains arrived too late to save the harvest.

The crisis here is vivid. A feeding center run by the Irish charity GOAL has admitted 73 starving children in the past month.

Some, like Bizunesh, are frail and skeletal. Others, like 4-year-old Eyob Tadesse, have grossly swollen limbs in a sign of extreme malnutrition.

Eyob, whose mother said he used to be a lively, talkative child, sat in a stupor, unable to speak, not moving even to brush away the flies that swarmed over his face. The sunny room humid with a recent, too late, rain shower was made gloomy by an eerie silence despite being full of sick children. Chronic malnutrition can affect children for life, stunting their growth, brain development and immune systems, which leaves them vulnerable to a host of illnesses.

Many mothers said their families were trying to survive on a gluey, chewy bread made of the root of the "false banana" plant -- one of many wild or so-called famine foods that Ethiopians depend on in times of trouble.

It's not known how many children have died or are starving now. Local and international aid and health workers say between 10 and nearly 20 percent of Ethiopia's children are malnourished -- 15 percent is considered a critical situation. In 2006, Ethiopia had 13.4 million children under age 5, according to UNICEF.

Samuel Akale, a nutritionist with the government's disaster prevention agency, said the hunger will get worse. "The number of severely malnourished will increase, and then they'll die."

WFP officials say the drought has affected six of Ethiopia's nine regions, stretching from Tigray in the north to the vast and dry Somali region in the south, though not every part of each region is affected.

Spokesman Greg Beals said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is preparing an appeal for additional tens of millions of dollars.

"This is a real crisis that needs to be addressed," he said.

Ethiopia is a country with a history of hunger. It's food problems drew international attention in 1984 when a famine compounded by communist policies killed some 1 million people. Pictures of stick-thin children like Bizunesh were broadcast onto television sets around the world.

This year's crisis is far less severe. But drought and chronic hunger persist in Ethiopia, a Horn of Africa nation known for its coffee, a major export. In 2003, droughts led 13.2 million people to seek emergency food aid. Drought in 2000 left more than 10 million needing emergency food.

Drought is especially disastrous in Ethiopia because more than 80 percent of people live off the land, and agriculture drives the economy, accounting for half of all domestic production and 85 percent of exports. But many also go hungry because of government policies. Ethiopia's government buys all crops from farmers at fixed low prices. And the government owns all the land, so it cannot be used as collateral for loans.

Aid agencies say emergency intervention is not enough and are appealing for more money to support regular feeding programs.

"What we're doing at the moment is waiting until children get severely malnourished, taking them into the feeding program, getting them back to a level of moderate malnutrition and then watching them cycle back," said Hatty Newhouse, a nutrition adviser from GOAL.

There are fears that the next harvest also will fail.

"We are crying with the mothers and the children," said Akale, the nutritionist.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Children 'starving' in new Iraq
Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.

The report was prepared for the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

It also expressed concern over North Korea and Sudan's Darfur province.

Jean Ziegler, a UN specialist on hunger who prepared the report, blamed the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.

The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder — it must be battled and eliminated

—Jean Ziegler

He was addressing a meeting of the 53-nation commission, the top UN rights watchdog, which is halfway through its annual six-week session.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, about 4% of Iraqi children under five were going hungry; now that figure has almost doubled to 8%, his report says.

Governments must recognise their extra-territorial obligations towards the right to food and should not do anything that might undermine access to it of people living outside their borders, it says.

That point is aimed clearly at the US, but Washington, which has sent a large delegation to the Human Rights Commission, declined to respond to the charges, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Increasing hunger

Mr Ziegler also said he was very concerned about the lack of food in North Korea, where there are reports that UN food aid is not being distributed fairly.

In Darfur, the continuing conflict has prevented people from planting vital crops, he said.

Overall, Mr Ziegler said he was shocked by the fact that hunger is actually increasing worldwide.

Some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases, the report claims, calling the situation a scandal in a world that is richer than ever before.

"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr. Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."

SOURCE: BBC NEWS | Middle East | Children 'starving' in new Iraq

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