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Children in Aleppo: ‘I’d rather die’

Aleppo has become "a slaughterhouse," says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair full of dust. The photograph, taken by an activist a few weeks ago, provoked horror around the world. We can only surmise from this little child's stunned expression what the war in his homeland has done to him, and to many other children and youngsters like him. Aleppo has again been forced to endure weeks of bombing by the Syrian and Russian regimes. A ceasefire was in place over the weekend. Of all the cities caught up in the Syrian civil war, Aleppo is the most fiercely contested. According to the UN, more than 250,000 people are trapped under siege in the eastern part of town. The recent bombardments were the heaviest since the start of the war in 2011. In the last offensive alone, which began on September 22, more than 500 people were killed and 2,000 wounded. Around a quarter of the victims were children - and that number could rise dramatically, as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are around 100,000 children and young people in eastern Aleppo. 'Medieval conditions' In an October 21 speech via video link to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, said the siege and bombardment of Aleppo "constitute crimes of historic proportions." This ancient Syrian city, "a place of millennial civility and beauty," was today, he said, "a slaughterhouse." Although Russia agreed to the ceasefire, the sick and injured could not be brought out of the city. The United Nations said it was unsafe to transport them, and secretary-general Ban Ki Moon pointed out that: "Under these medieval conditions, the vulnerable are suffering the most." Suicidal thoughts among children Katharina Ebel, the project advisor of SOS Children's Villages in Syria, confirmed that this is indeed the case. The children are under tremendous psychological strain, she said, warning of severe depression that could even lead to children having suicidal thoughts. "One boy who wanted to take his own life was only 12 years old," she told the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper. "So far we've always been able to prevent children from killing themselves," Ebel went on. But she reported that every day there are children who say, "I'd rather die than go on like this." Deep depression drives them to commit acts of aggression, against both themselves and others. "Many of them can't sleep any more, or have nightmares, and then they're completely exhausted during the day," she said. Children describe the rigors of their everyday lives on the website of UNICEF's #ChildrenofSyria campaign. Not only do they risk being killed on the way to school, the schools themselves are also often attacked - around 4,000 times since the war began. And even those who try to take shelter may be killed: The organization Save the Children has reported that so-called "bunker buster" bombs are being used. Some experiences are too extreme SOS Children's Villages have psychologists and social workers in every facility, "who talk to the children individually, try to alleviate their trauma, restore the children's sense of trust," Ebel said. "Sometimes it's just not possible, because what they've experienced is too extreme. Often, when a child has seen their parents die, seen them buried under rubble, seen their home destroyed, their sense of security is lost for a very long time." The Syrian winter will start to set in in just a few weeks' time. UNICEF warns that many children and their families have reached the end of their strength. Children are especially at risk from the freezing temperatures and snowstorms that have often occurred in recent years. The aid organization is also very worried about the children in the Iraqi city of Mosul, 600 kilometers (370 miles) further east. It warns that the current offensive to recapture the city means the more than 500,000 children and their families there are now in extreme danger.

Aleppo has become “a slaughterhouse,” says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair ... Read More »

Wars displace record 40.8 million people: report

Middle East conflicts account for more than half of the 8.6 million people displaced by fighting in 2015, according to a new report. The total number of internally displaced people has jumped to a record high. The number of internally displaced people rose to a record 40.8 million people in 2015, according to a joint report released Wednesday by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). "This is the highest figure ever recorded, and twice the number of refugees worldwide," said Jan Egeland, the NRC's secretary general. There were 8.6 million people newly displaced within borders last year, nearly half from conflict zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the report said. "As the world's attention focused on the flow of refugees out of the region, millions were displaced internally in the Middle East, more than in the rest of the world combined," said Carsten Hansen, NRC's regional director in the Middle East. The number of internally displaced in Syria and Iraq increased by 1.3 and 1.1 million , respectively, adding to the millions already forced from their homes in those long running conflicts. Yemen was hit the worst, with "a staggering 2.2 million forced to flee their homes as a result of the Saudi-led airstrikes." Saudi Arabia and allied Gulf states launched a military operation and economic blockade against Houthi rebels in Yemen last year, creating a humanitarian disaster. The more than 1 million refugees who reached Europe last year were just the tip of the iceberg of global displacement, which internally can simmer for years before bursting beyond borders. "While richer, stable countries have been scheming to keep asylum seekers out of their borders and deny them protection, millions remain trapped in their own countries with death staring them just around the corner," Hansen said. Five countries - Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan - have been in the top 10 countries with displaced for more than a decade. "This is further evidence that in the absence of the help displaced people need, displacement tends to drag on for years and even decades," said IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak. The report also said natural disasters had created 19.2 million internally displaced people last year, led by India, China and Nepal.

Middle East conflicts account for more than half of the 8.6 million people displaced by fighting in 2015, according to a new report. The total number of internally displaced people has jumped to a record high. The number of internally displaced people rose to a record 40.8 million people in 2015, according to a joint report released Wednesday by the ... Read More »

Syrian opposition in formal talks with UN, then backtracks

An official from Syria's main opposition group has told Saudi TV that it wants the Syrian regime to implement humanitarian measures on the ground immediately. The group held discussions with the UN peace envoy on Monday. After traveling to Geneva to hold talks with United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, a Syrian opposition official accused de Mistura of overstepping the mark by declaring the formal start of the peace talks. De Mistura held the first talks with the main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, on Monday after a similar discussion with Syrian government officials on Friday . Following the talks, HNC official Monzer Makhous appeared to backtrack from his group's commitment, telling Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must implement humanitarian measures, such as the lifting of sieges, before peace talks can proceed. "The Syrian regime must state directly, frankly and without ambiguity that it is ready to implement (United Nations) Articles 12 and 13 immediately, and it must not take more than a few days." "If not, the High Negotiations Committee will not take part in any other process," Monzer said. "We told (U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura) clearly that he must not interpret any interaction with him as being the start of the negotiations process," he said. Later, Monzer told Reuters Television: "We are here for a few days. Just to be clear, only a few days. If there (is) no progress on the ground, we are leaving ... We are not here for negotiations, we are here to test the regime's intentions." Goodwill measures promised On Monday, the UN said Damascus had approved "in principle" aid deliveries to the besieged towns in Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya. "Based on this, the UN will submit a detailed list of supplies and other details, and will include and reiterate the request for nutrition supplies and entry of nutrition/health assessment teams," Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told journalists. Monday's formal meeting with the HNC followed preliminary discussions on Sunday , which were a prelude to the so-called "proximity" talks which will see de Mistura meet separately with the opposition and government representatives in Geneva. Others missing from talks Meanwhile, another opposition coalition comprised of Syrian Kurds and Arabs, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), announced they would not participate in the peace talks. "We decided on Sunday night to suspend our participation in negotiations so long as the five Kurdish and one Turkman delegates from our list do not receive invitations from UN mediator Staffan de Mistura," the group's leader Haytham Manna told the AFP news agency. The SDC was formed as the political branch of the Kurdish-Arab fighting force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. Manna said his organization and leaders, including former Syrian Minister Qadri Jamil and secular activist Randa Kassis, had submitted a list of 35 representatives they wanted in the talks. However, only 29 were invited, following which the SDC decided to quit the meeting. The discussions are part of a November roadmap outlined by the international community that sets an 18-month-long time table to enable political transition in Syria and draft a new constitution. Syria has been embroiled in a five-year conflict that has killed over 250,000 people and displaced millions.

An official from Syria’s main opposition group has told Saudi TV that it wants the Syrian regime to implement humanitarian measures on the ground immediately. The group held discussions with the UN peace envoy on Monday. After traveling to Geneva to hold talks with United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, a Syrian opposition official accused de Mistura of ... Read More »

New US-trained rebels enter Syria to fight ‘IS’

شام میں فعال شدت پسند گروہ داعش سے لڑائی کے لیے امریکی تربیت یافتہ 75 جنگجو ترکی کے راستے شام میں داخل ہو گئے ہیں۔ یہ جنگجو جدید اسلحے سے بھی لیس ہیں۔ خبر رساں ادارے اے ایف پی نے اتوار کے دن بتایا ہے کہ شامی باغیوں کا ایک ایسا گروپ شام میں داخل ہو گیا ہے، جس نے امریکی عسکری ماہرین سے خصوصی تربیت حاصل کر رکھی ہے۔ سیریئن آبزرویٹری فار ہیومن رائٹس کے مطابق یہ جنگجو داعش (اسلامک اسٹیٹ) کے خلاف امریکی عسکری کارروائی کے ایک پروگرام کے تحت لڑیں گے۔ آبزرویٹری کے سربراہ رامی عبدالرحمان نے بتایا ہے، ’’ ترک دارالحکومت کے نواح میں ہی تربیت حاصل کرنے والے پچھتر نئے جنگجو جمعے اور ہفتے کی درمیانی رات حلب صوبے میں داخل ہوئے۔‘‘ امریکی حمایت یافتہ ڈویژن 30 کے ترجمان حسن مصطفیٰ نے بھی ان جنگجوؤں کے شام میں داخلے کی تصدیق کی ہے، ’’ترکی میں ان جنگوؤں کی دو ماہ تک تربیت کی گئی۔ وہ اب داعش کے خلاف لڑنے کے لیے مرکزی محاذوں پر پہنچ چکے ہیں۔ یہ تربیت یافتہ جنگجو اس وقت تل رفعت نامی قصبے میں پوزشنیں سنبھال چکے ہیں۔‘‘ حسن مصطفیٰ نے البتہ اس بارے میں کوئی تبصرہ نہیں کیا کہ یہ جنگجو اپنے ساتھ کس قسم کا اسلحہ لے کر گئے ہیں۔ تاہم رامی عبدالرحمان کے مطابق یہ جنگجو درجنوں گاڑیوں میں سوار ہو کر ایک کاروان کی شکل میں شام میں داخل ہوئے، جن کے پاس اسلحہ بھی تھا۔ رامی کے بقول جب یہ جنگجو شام میں داخل ہو رہے تھے تو امریکی اتحادی فضائیہ ان کی مدد کر رہی تھی۔ یہ اتحادی فضائیہ شام اور عراق میں داعش کے ٹھکانوں کو بھی نشانہ بنا رہی ہے۔ ماضی میں بھی امریکی تربیت یافتہ ساٹھ جنگجو ڈویژن 30 نامی ملیشیا کے تحت شام میں داعش کے خلاف کارروائیوں کے لیے روانہ کیے جا چکے ہیں۔ تاہم جولائی میں النصرہ فرنٹ کے ایک حملے میں اس ڈویژن کو بری طرح شکست ہوئی تھی، جس دوران درجن بھر باغی مارے یا اغوا کر لیے گئے تھے۔ تب سے امریکا نے ان تربیت یافتہ جنگجوؤں کے لیے فضائی تعاون کا پروگرام شروع کر دیا تھا۔ امریکا نے یہ بھی کہا تھا کہ اگر شامی فورسز نے ان فائٹرز کے خلاف کارروائی کی تو اتحادی فضائیہ ان کے خلاف بھی کارروائی کرنے کی مجاز ہو گی۔ دوسری طرف امریکی حکام کو یہ اندیشہ بھی لاحق ہے کہ روس مغرب نواز ایسے باغیوں کو نشانہ بنا سکتا ہے، جو صدر بشار الاسد کے خلاف کارروائی میں مصروف ہیں۔ یہ امر اہم ہے کہ ماسکو حکومت کا کہنا ہے کہ جہادیوں کے خلاف جاری لڑائی میں ایک وسیع تر اتحاد کی ضرورت ہے۔ امریکا کے اس منصوبے کے تحت ابتدائی طور پر تین برس تک سالانہ 54 سو ایسے فائٹرز کو تربیت فراہم کی جانا تھی، جو شام میں جہادیوں کے خلاف لڑ سکیں۔ تاہم امریکی کانگریس میں یہ منصوبہ شدید تنقید کا نشانہ بنایا جا رہا ہے۔ ری پبلکن سینیٹر کیلی آیوٹے کے بقول اتنی کم تعداد میں باغیوں کو تربیت فراہم کرنا ’ایک مذاق‘ کے مترداف ہے۔

A batch of 75 rebels trained by US forces in Turkey have entered Syria, according to a UK-based monitoring group. The fighters were trained at a camp near the Turkish capital Ankara. The men entered northern Syria’s Aleppo province between Friday night and Saturday morning, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He added that ... Read More »

Japan’s parliament approves controversial security bill

Japan's upper parliament has approved a contentious law that removes post-World War II curbs on troops fighting overseas. The issue has sparked protests from pacifists who question the need to join global conflicts. Ignoring a parliamentary fist-fight a day earlier, the upper House of Councillors - dominated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition - gave its final endorsement to the controversial bill on early Saturday local time. The bill "is necessary to protect the people's lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars," Reuters news agency quoted Abe as saying at a press conference following the vote. The approval flies in the face of deep criticism by many Japanese, who fear their country will now play a greater role in international conflicts. Under the new law, Japan's so-called Self-Defense Forces can now be deployed to help protect allies such as the United States, even if there is no direct threat to the country. After the Second World War, Japan's constitution was rewritten to restrict the military to defending itself and the country. But under the new law, the armed forces can come to the aid of allies under a concept known as collective self-defense. Military shift Previous governments have ruled any international combative deployments as unconstitutional, although Japanese forces have regularly engaged in peace-keeping missions, including in Iraq. The changes would allow Japan to intercept a missile flying over Japan and headed for a different country, instead of one fired at Japan. Similarly, if a foreign warship were attacked, Japanese forces could now theoretically come to its defense. But deployments can only occur if a situation was deemed an "imminent critical threat" to Japan. Opponents of the new legislation say it is too vague and gives future governments too much leeway to interpret them as they see fit. Many Japanese are concerned that after seven decades of peace and prosperity, any change to the pacifist policy would see the country become embroiled in international conflicts. Mass protests have been held in recent months to oppose the new law. But the government says a more active military will help preserve the peace, as threats increase from North Korea and China's growing status as a world power. Fists out On Thursday, a fight broke out in parliament after an upper-house committee voted to adopt the new legislation. In scenes unusually raucous for Japanese politics, opposition lawmakers had packed the corridors of the upper house to protest the bill, surrounding the chairman of the security legislation committee in a bid to physically prevent a vote overnight. Japan's new security position has been welcomed by Washington as it seeks to counter Chinese challenges to US hegemony in the Pacific. The US remains treaty-bound to defend Japan in the likelihood of an attack, while concerns are mounting that Washington may not have the resources or political will to do so in the future.

Japan’s upper parliament has approved a contentious law that removes post-World War II curbs on troops fighting overseas. The issue has sparked protests from pacifists who question the need to join global conflicts. Ignoring a parliamentary fist-fight a day earlier, the upper House of Councillors – dominated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition – gave its final endorsement to ... Read More »

US, Russian defense chiefs discuss ‘de-conflict’ in Syria

The US and Russia's heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin's announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in "military-to-military" talks on Syria following a Russian buildup in the war-torn country. Peter Cook - the Pentagon's press secretary - said the conversation between the two defense chiefs was constructive, adding that the discussion revolved around the need to "de-conflict" Russia's presence, largely seen as a means to prop up the Syrian government under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. "[Carter] emphasized the importance of pursuing consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria. He noted that defeating ISIL [another name for the self-styled "Islamic State"] and ensuring a political transition are objectives that need to be pursued at the same time," Cook said in a statement. The Russian defense ministry's spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov also noted the positive outcome, saying that "the course of the conversation has shown that the sides' opinions on the majority of issues under consideration are close or coincide." "The ministers noted the restoration of contacts between the countries' defense ministries and agreed to continue consultations," Konashenkov added, referring to the breakdown of defense-related contact on both sides following Russia's invasion and annexation of the former Ukrainian region Crimea. A 'partner' in Assad? The defense chiefs' conversation comes amid a Russian buildup in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Russia has avidly supported Assad's regime, urging the US and its allies to engage the Syrian government as a "partner." Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Friday that Moscow would consider sending Russian troops to Syria if "a request" was made. "If there is a request… then in the framework of a bilateral dialogue it would be, naturally, discussed and considered," Peskov told journalists in a conference call. "For now, it's difficult to speak hypothetically." Syria's civil conflict has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than half the country's population displaced, leading to Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II.

The US and Russia’s heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin’s announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in “military-to-military” talks on Syria following a Russian buildup ... Read More »

Hungary deploys police to stem the influx of refugees and other migrants

Hungary is mulling sending over 2,100 police officers to its southern border to stop the flow of migrants into the country. Meanwhile, the police fired tear gas on people trying to leave a refugee center. The Hungarian government said Wednesday it was considering deploying additional troops to its southern border with Serbia to impede the flow of migrants into its territory. "The border protection will be reinforced with 2,106 extra police from September 5," Karoly Papp, the European country's police chief, told reporters in the capital Budapest. The so-called "border hunters" will patrol the length of the border, providing the much-needed support to more than 1,000 regular police already working to intercept illegal immigrants, Papp added. In addition, Hungary is also constructing a barbed wire fence along its border with Serbia. Rising tension Meanwhile, migrants and police briefly scuffled at a refugee processing center at Roszke. Television footage showed the police firing tear gas at some 200 migrants who were allegedly refusing to cooperate with the authorities. The migrants didn't want to be fingerprinted, said Spokesman Szabolcs Szenti, a police spokesman, adding that the police were "trying to calm the situation, but the migrants were continuing to shout." Record migrant intake According to Hungarian police, a record number of migrants crossed the Serbian-Hungarian border on Monday. According to officials, 2,093 people - most of them from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan - made the journey. Since Hungary is part of the European passport-free Schengen zone, many of the travelers hope to continue on to countries in Western Europe, such as Germany and Sweden. The group is part of around 7,000 migrants who were stuck on the border between Greece and Macedonia. The latter declared a state of emergency and closed its borders, saying the high number of new arrivals had overwhelmed the small country. The 2,093 arrivals are only some of the 100,000 migrants to have entered Hungary this year, double the figure for all of 2014. Budapest received 2,000 asylum applications in 2012. The European Commission has pledged to give Hungary nearly $9.24 million (eight million euros) in aid to cope with the refugee crisis. However, the government says more is needed, according to an interview published on Tuesday with Prime Minister Orban's chief of staff. People fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East are seeking refuge in European countries, with most of the people turning up on the shores of Italy and Greece or being rescued at sea. Many of these people who arrive in Southern Europe want to move on to richer EU countries and claim asylum there.

Hungary is mulling sending over 2,100 police officers to its southern border to stop the flow of migrants into the country. Meanwhile, the police fired tear gas on people trying to leave a refugee center. The Hungarian government said Wednesday it was considering deploying additional troops to its southern border with Serbia to impede the flow of migrants into its ... Read More »

Relatives of MH17 victims file $900 million lawsuit against former rebel leader

Victims' family members of the MH17 crash have filed a lawsuit totaling nearly $900 million against Igor Strelkov, former leader of the Ukrainian separatist movement. According to the court papers, Russia is complicit. Family members of the victims who died in the MH17 Malaysian Airlines crash last year filed a nearly $900 million (826 million euros) lawsuit against Igor Strelkov, former rebel leader in the east Ukrainian conflict. The lawsuit was filed by lawyer Floyd Wisner, an Aviation specialist, in a Chicago court. Wisner is representing relatives of at least 17 victims of the crash. Strelkov, a Russian national also known as Igor Girkin, spearheaded the rebel side of operations in the eastern Ukrainian conflict until August 2014, after which he traveled to Russia where he currently resides. Aided, abetted, conspired "Flight 17 flew over the airspace of the area in which the aforesaid rebel army was waging its war activities and the rebel army under the command responsibility of defendant Girkin shot down the subject Boeing 777-200 aircraft," court papers stated. "Defendant Girkin ordered, aided and/or abetted this action and/or conspired with those persons who fired the missile or missiles," the court papers noted. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 - from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam - crashed after traveling over eastern Ukrainian airspace, where more than 4,000 people have been killed throughout the conflict on the ground. It is believed that the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Both the Ukrainian and Russian government have accused each other of orchestrating the attack, which left all 298 passengers -mostly Dutch citizens - dead, although no suspects have arisen. Rejecting investigations However, Strelkov's wife Mirosalva, who acts at the former rebel leader's spokesperson, has decried the lawsuit. "What does he have to do with this anyway," Miroslava told Russian radio, referring to her husband Strelkov. The lawsuit comes on the heels of Malaysia's formal request to the UN to open an international tribunal to independently investigate the circumstances of the crash. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday that opening a tribunal into the crash was "premature" and "counterintuitive."

Victims’ family members of the MH17 crash have filed a lawsuit totaling nearly $900 million against Igor Strelkov, former leader of the Ukrainian separatist movement. According to the court papers, Russia is complicit. Family members of the victims who died in the MH17 Malaysian Airlines crash last year filed a nearly $900 million (826 million euros) lawsuit against Igor Strelkov, ... Read More »

UNICEF 2015 report: Millions of children caught in the middle of conflict

Killed, maimed, kidnapped, enslaved, forced to flee: violence against children has reached horrifying levels. The UN children's aid group Unicef calls for much more protection for children. The right to education, care and protection - for children growing up in war zones these are little more than empty promises. Currently, in the world's five most conflicted countries - Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Yemen - some 21 million children are directly affected by violence. Terror groups such as "Islamic State" (IS) and Boko Haram intentionally disregard the principles of international humanitarian law in order to generate a maximum of attention. "Children are subjected to bomb attacks in their homes and in their schools; they are kidnapped, killed, sexually abused and recruited as child soldiers," says Ted Chaiban of UNICEF International. One in ten children worldwide lives in a country or region that is defined by armed conflict. That means that an unfathomable 230 million children grow up caught in the middle of conflicts. "Children caught in the middle" is also the title of the 2015 UNICEF report, which was just presented in Berlin. With its 270 page report, the children's aid organization seeks to draw attention to the ways that uncertainty, hate and violence destroy the lives of millions of children. Fewer contributions It is said that there have not been this many child refugees since the end of the Second World War. And UNICEF has never had to ask for so much money for emergency aid in conflict regions. This year that sum will be about $3 billion (2.7 billion euros). Two-thirds of that money comes from state funding, one-third from private donations - and it gets harder to raise every year. "It is far easier to gather donations for victims of natural disasters than for Syrian war refugees," says Jürgen Heraeus, chairman of UNICEF Germany. "People say, 'natural disasters could affect any of us,' so they have a certain empathy, whereas the other case is an armed conflict and they feel that it has nothing to do with them," he said. "The UN's world food program and UNICEF have both had to cut back on food rations due to lack of funding. Therefore they cannot help all of the children, youths and other needy persons that are so dependent upon such aid," laments Germany's Development Minister Gerd Müller. In the past two years, says Müller, some 70,000 children have been born on the floors of tents in refugee camps. He has witnessed the suffering in such refugee camps firsthand and tells of recently meeting a mother holding her seventh child in her arms, as she sat next to her 16-year-old son who had lost both of his legs in a conflict. Müller goes on to criticize the fact that in Germany the willingness to donate money to help refugees and displaced persons is waning. "The images keep washing over us, and unfortunately we are becoming increasingly numb to them." But the global community must live up to its promises and do something. School and psychotherapy Last year, the development ministry gave UNICEF about 150 million euros ($167 million) to support projects in war and conflict zones. A large part of that money was used to aid refugees from Syria and Iraq. "Because of such support 100,000 children can attend school in Lebanon alone," reports Müller. Financial aid is scheduled to be increased this year, although Müller declined to say exactly how much when asked. Germany is among the most important donors for school projects for Syrian refugees. Ted Chaiban emphasizes that it is importent for children and youths to go to school and to get a glimpse of a world that is formed by hope, not hate. That is why the children's aid organization is active in making sure that children get psychological and social support as well. Simple children's centers are enough to start with and therapy can take place in tents. "Germany wants to focus on the program this year," says Gerd Müller, who also announced further financial aid for this kind of support. Jürgen Heraeus stresses that the opportunity for a return to stability and peaceful development is dependent upon giving youths orientation and jobs. "If we are unable to catch this generation, to give them an education and hope for a better future, then they will simply drift away."

Killed, maimed, kidnapped, enslaved, forced to flee: violence against children has reached horrifying levels. The UN children’s aid group Unicef calls for much more protection for children. The right to education, care and protection – for children growing up in war zones these are little more than empty promises. Currently, in the world’s five most conflicted countries – Syria, Iraq, ... Read More »

Obama urges Putin to fulfill Ukraine peace deal terms in rare phone call

روسی صدر ولادیمیر پوٹن نے جمعرات کے روز اپنے امریکی ہم منصب باراک اوباما سے ٹیلی فون پر بات چیت میں یوکرائن کے بحران اور متعدد دیگر بین الاقوامی امور پر گفتگو کی۔ وائٹ ہاؤس کے مطابق صدر اوباما نے اصرار کیا کہ روس مِنسک معاہدے پر عمل درآمد کو یقینی بنائے اور یوکرائنی علاقوں سے تمام روسی فوجیوں اور عسکری ساز و سامان کو واپس بلایا جائے۔ اس بات چیت میں اوباما اور پوٹن نے شام کی بگڑتی صورت حال پر بھی بات چیت کی جب کہ ایرانی جوہری تنازعے پر مل کر کام کرتے رہنے کا عزم بھی دہرایا گیا۔

In their first call since February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has phoned US President Barack Obama to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Also on the agenda were Iran nuclear talks, “Islamic State” and Syria. According to the White House, Obama told Putin on Thursday that he needs to live to up to the terms of a ceasefire deal with Ukraine which ... Read More »

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