1M Nigerian children separated from parents: President

                 By Rafiu Ajakaye</p>  <p>LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - At least 1 million Nigerian children have been forcefully separated from their parents as a result of Boko Haram violence, President Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday.</p>  <p>&quot;We have at least a million children who neither know their parents nor where they come from,” Buhari said in a meeting with visiting United Nations General Assembly President Maria Garces in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. </p>  <p>Buhari said the insurgency in the region has triggered a humanitarian crisis and the collapse of public infrastructure which he sought international support to rebuild.</p>  <p>The president said half of the 30 million people affected by the drying up of Lake Chad are in Nigeria, seeking global support to revitalize the Lake.</p>  <p>“Bridges have been blown up. Schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, and other buildings have been destroyed. All these will be rehabilitated, and every form of international help is welcome,&quot; he said. &quot;The condition of internally displaced persons in the country is pathetic.&quot;</p>  <p>Garces is on a one-day working visit to Nigeria.</p>  <p>She said Nigeria has been a major supporter of the UN and pledged to raise global support for the “disturbing effects” of climate change on the Lake Chad region.</p>  <p>She also praised Nigeria's roles in peacekeeping operation and rising its commitment to human rights advocacy.</p>  <p> 

US lawmaker’s bill would ban funds to Israeli military

             By Michael Hernandez </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Veteran congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit U.S. funding to any foreign military that detains children, including Israel.</p>  <p>The bill would additionally authorize the creation of an annual $19 million fund to support non-governmental organizations that monitor rights abuses pertaining to the Israeli military's detention of children. </p>  <p>&quot;Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,&quot; McCollum said in a statement announcing the bill's introduction. </p>  <p>McCollum said Israel's military detention of children &quot;must be condemned,&quot; adding that &quot;it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.&quot;</p>  <p>Roughly 10,000 children have been detained by Israeli security forces since 2000 and subjected to military court proceedings, according to McCollum's bill.</p>  <p>&quot;Israeli security forces detain children under the age of 12 for interrogation for extended periods of time even though prosecution of children under 12 is prohibited by Israeli military law,&quot; it says. </p>  <p>It further goes on to note that Human Rights Watch reported in 2018 that Israel's military &quot;detained Palestinian children &quot;often using unnecessary force, questioned them without a family member present, and made them sign confessions in Hebrew, which most did not understand.&quot;</p>  <p>McCollum's bill faces an uphill battle in Congress where it is likely to face near-uniform opposition from Republicans and is unlikely to garner sufficient Democratic support to clear the House if Speaker Nancy Pelosi chooses to send it to the floor.</p>  <p>Still, the Democratic lawmaker was adamant that &quot;Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.&quot; 

Turkey’s IHH supports 95,000 orphan children globally

            By Nilay Kar Onum</p>  <p>ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has been lending a helping hand to thousands of orphaned children across the world, said an official from the foundation. </p>  <p> “We’ve been providing support to 95,000 orphans in 53 countries regularly. We are trying to prepare them for life, thanks to the support of our donors,” said Resat Baser, head of IHH’s Orphan Care Department, speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency in Istanbul.</p>  <p> “We are particularly focusing on the education of the children. In crisis regions, education of children and their development are very important for us,” Baser said. </p>  <p>His remarks came as Turkey marks National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, which is observed every year on April 23.</p>  <p>“One of the countries we focus on is Palestine. As of today, we are regularly supporting more than 16,000 orphans there,” he said. </p>  <p>Most of the aid in Palestine is going to orphaned children in Gaza through IHH’s team in the blockaded city and banks, Baser said. </p>  <p>According to official estimates, 80% of Gaza City’s inhabitants depend on foreign assistance to survive. Some 40%, meanwhile, currently live below the poverty line.</p>  <p>Since 2006, the Gaza Strip has suffered under a crippling Israeli blockade that has gutted the territory’s economy and deprived its 2 million inhabitants of many staple commodities.</p>  <p>The IHH has also been providing support to more than 10,000 orphaned children in Syria, Baser said. </p>  <p>“The majority of the children we are giving support to in Syria are living in the region where [Turkey’s] Operation Euphrates Shield was launched and in Afrin,” where its Operation Olive Branch was conducted, he said.</p>  <p>The IHH has been carrying out aid projects in war-torn Syria since the country’s devastating conflict began in 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.  </p>  <p>Since Afrin’s liberation in March 2018 through Operation Olive Branch, the aid agency has also distributed hot meals to an estimated one million Syrians. 

– IHH helps 6,000 children in Yemen

Another country that IHH focuses on is Yemen.

“We have over 6,000 orphaned children in Yemen that we give support to,” Baser said.

“Delivering daily needs such as food aid and hygiene supplies is very important in Yemen. We also attach importance to the education of mothers there and delivering stationery supplies to children. We've been regularly delivering such aid there,” he added.

“We also have 1,000 children in Moro in the Philippines that we’re providing support to.

“Moro is very important in terms of the role that both Turkey and IHH played in the peace process. It is a place that we should give support to, in order not to lose the gains there," Baser said.

The aid agency will launch the 9th Orphans Solidarity Day this year.

“As part of this, we will realize 607 projects in 33 countries in order to provide support to both orphaned children and their families,” Baser said.

“Our main goal with this project is to improve the lives of the mothers of the children and to provide employment to them,” he said.

– Children grateful for support

In a video message sent to Anadolu Agency, 10-year-old Nura Halife from Syria thanked the Turkish government and IHH for their support.

"I hope we will return to our homes in a safe way," she said.

"I want peace for all the people and children across the world."

Sending a written message to Anadolu Agency, 13-year-old Vera Marvinda from Indonesia’s Aceh province said: “IHH has changed a lot of things in my life. It helped me study and learn my religion.”

“When I hear the name IHH, I become happy and would like to visit there,” Marvinda said.

There are an estimated 400 million orphans around the world.

IHH operates 36 orphanages in 13 countries, according to the agency’s website.

The aid agency is supporting orphaned children through the Orphan Sponsorship System.

Anyone who wishes to sponsor an orphan child can visit www.ihh.org.tr and send $30 monthly for their education, health, food, clothing and housing.

Syrian father holds on to life despite losing leg

By Meryem Goktas

ANKARA, Turkey / AL-BAB, Syria – Despite losing his leg in the ongoing conflict in Syria, a father of five continues to hold on to life to provide for his family.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab, Rabeh Selim said: “After I lost my leg I had to find myself a new profession, a profession I could do with my hands to look after my family.”

He decided to repair television sets and opened a shop in the city.

Selim, an electrical engineer, was working in a power plant before the war started. He was forced to leave his hometown Tadmur (ancient Palmyra) in Syria’s western Homs province four years ago, he said.

“I lost my right leg in an airstrike by the Bashar al-Assad regime while I was repairing a generator in Tadmur,” he said.

At first, he was afraid his children would see him differently.

“The fact that I lost one leg never made me feel disabled, my children also never saw me that way which was a big relief,” he said.

“If there comes a day where I will lose a hand, I will still find something to do, I will stay strong as I have a family which I have to look after,” he added.

Some 1.5 million people in Syria are now living with permanent impairment, including 86,000 people who have lost limbs, according to the UN.

Hundreds and thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, the UN says, in a devastating conflict since 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.

  • Life under war

Selim said that leaving his home and uncertainty about the future of his children are his main concerns.

“War is terrible, bloody, it ends with death, tears and forced displacement,” he said.

The war has taken away many family members and his properties.

“My best days were before the war started. We were safe and happy, had job opportunities and could go wherever we wanted,” he said.

Three of his children were born before the war started, he said, stating that he was able to cater to all their needs. Two others were born after 2011, when hard luck had struck.

He said that when schools reopened in Al-Bab, his children started attending classes, but that this was not enough for their education.

“What I fear the most is the future of my children because there is no safety,” he said.

“I don't want to stay in Syria because my wife and I were raised in a very beautiful way by our families and I would like to raise my children the same way,” he said.

“I live today to provide for tomorrow, but I cannot think further than this, we have no hope for a future in Syria,” he added.

  • Supporting others

Selim said that despite his struggle, he continues to support displaced families from his hometown.

“I visit different charities and shop owners to ask help for the people of Tadmur. I try my best to cover their needs,” he said.

Some 800 families from Tadmur are living in Al-Bab, out of which 200 are in need of immediate help.

“I am helping the people of Tadmur, because when I lost my leg, they mobilized for me and helped me a lot, I am grateful for what they did. They gave me a lot of psychological support during that time,” he added.

Selim called for an end to war in Syria.

“My expectation is for this war to end, our expectation is to get stability in the region, but it looks like it is not going to happen any time soon,” he said.

Syrian children hold on to education despite challenges

                By Meryem Goktas

ANKARA/AZAZ, Syria (AA) – As the conflict in Syria enters its ninth year, a generation born and raised in an environment of conflict continues to hold on to education despite tough conditions.

While conflict, displacement and violence became part of the daily life in Syria, children hold steadfast to hope for a brighter future in the Shuhada Miskan school located in the Yazi Bagh refugee camp in Syria's northwestern Azaz region.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Iman Mustafa Zaydan, a class teacher at the school, said her students enjoy education despite all odds.

The school teaches around 350 students until sixth grade in containers and tents.

“While it becomes very hot and dusty in summer, it is cold and muddy in winter. There is no infrastructure at the school and students are forced to walk through mud to reach their classes, they have no space to play here,” she said.

Nine-year-old girl Maryam, one of Zaydan’s students, said that she loves to spend time at the school. “Even though the school is very muddy, I really enjoy coming to school and I love my teachers. I am spending a great time at school,” she added.

In the class of 27 students, Maryam said that her teacher is her idol. “I want to become a teacher as well when I grow up,” she said with a smile on her face.

– Education limited to classrooms

Speaking about other obstacles children are facing, Zaydan said that the students are not able to continue their education outside the classroom.

“The reason for that is they have no personal space at the camps they are living in […],” she said.

“While the families try to provide and improve the basic living conditions, children are left on their own in receiving their education,” the teacher added.

Zaydan said at times children are also short of school materials such as books, pens, bags or any necessary means to actively participate in the class.

Another problem is the age gap between the students in different classes, the teacher said, giving an example of her class where she teaches students of age group 8-12 years in second grade.

“This shows that many of these children did not receive education for a long time, or any at all before they arrived at the camp,” she added.

– Longing for brighter future

Zaydan said that her students are full of hope when it comes to their future dreams.

“Some of these students are very smart, but they do not have the necessary support needed to ensure better education and brighter future to them,” she added.

Fatima, an eight-year-old student, said that she moved together with her family five years ago to the refugee camp from Jukhah region, which is located southeast of Aleppo.

“I love my school very much,” Fatima said, adding she enjoys her studies.

“I want to be an English teacher when I grow up. I have learned the letters and numbers already,” she said.

“The reason why I love English is my teacher Ahmed. All the things I have learnt was taught by him. I don’t know where he is right now, I did not see him again,” she added.

The country has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures, while children continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.

Constant displacement in the country leads to irregularities in children’s lives, which especially affects their access to education.

– Problems

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ramadan Abdallah Taame, who spent 40 years of his life as a teacher, said children remained “far away from education” since the start of the war.

“We are trying to teach as many children as possible because these children are our future, but they continue their education under harsh conditions. Their families cannot do much for them, but they are still continuing their education with very limited resources,” he said.

Taame said that there is no good communication between the families of the children and the school administration.

“In order to find work to earn bread and butter to survive, the parents often neglect education of their children,” he said.

“Women are experiencing the most difficulties in the camp trying to keep their children warm, clean and provide them with food to prevent them from illness,” he said, adding these women do not find time to pay attention to the education of their children.

“The burden of the parents who live under harsh conditions in the camps affects the future of their children,” Taame added.

Palestine minors still face specter of death, detention

            By Ali Abo Rezeg <br>

ANKARA (AA) – Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip and in refugee camps abroad remain at risk of sudden death and injury, while also facing the specter of arbitrary detention at the hands of the Israeli authorities.

– Blockaded Gaza

Children living under Israel’s 12-year siege of the Gaza Strip face the danger of Israeli bullets — especially when they are taking part in regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, some 50 Palestinian children have been killed near the buffer zone by Israeli army gunfire — and more than 3,000 others injured — since the protests began more than one year ago.

According to protest organizer Ahmed Abu Riteima, entire Palestinian families — including young children — often take part in the peaceful rallies.

“That’s why we’ve seen so many causalities among women and children,” Abu Riteima told Anadolu Agency.

“Israel is solely responsible for this, since it insists on suppressing the rallies with deadly force,” he added.

“Children are frequently killed near the buffer zone, either by random Israeli army gunfire or because they are deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers,” Abu Riteima said.

He added: “Gazan children are being killed in cold blood when they pose no real threat to Israeli forces deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.”

Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

– Occupied West Bank

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, meanwhile, Palestinian children run the risk of being targeted by an Israeli sniper, beaten by a Jewish settler, or detained by Israeli soldiers.

Last year alone, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), a Geneva-based rights NGO, documented more than 120 cases in which Palestinian minors were arbitrarily detained by the Israeli authorities.

According to DCIP, “more than half of the children arrested by the Israeli authorities [during this period] experienced verbal abuse, threats, humiliation or intimidation” while in custody.

In a recent statement, the NGO added: “The vast majority of children, over 75 percent, said they were physically abused during the course of their detention.”

It went on to point out that detained Palestinian children are frequently placed in solitary confinement.

“While in pre-trial detention, the Israeli authorities placed 22 children in isolation for a period of 48 hours or more,” DCIP said, adding that in some cases, children were kept in isolation for 30 days at a time.

– Refugee camps

Meanwhile, Palestinian children living in refugee camps abroad — especially in Lebanon or war-torn Syria — face their own set of difficulties, including poverty and poor living conditions.

Mahmoud Hanafi, head of the Palestinian Institution for Human Rights, a Beirut-based NGO, described the situation of Palestinian children in refugee camps as “miserable”.

“Refugee children live under extremely poor conditions that severely limit their ability to build a viable future,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Hanafi cited figures from the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which put the poverty rate among Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps at 73 percent and the unemployment rate at 56 percent.

He also pointed out that children in the camps often face food insecurity, with 38 percent suffering “moderate” food insecurity and another 24 percent suffering “acute” food insecurity.

According to Hanafi, most refugee children also lack access to adequate education — a situation he attributed to “their socio-economic situation and legal restrictions imposed on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon”.

An estimated 300,000 Palestinians, including tens of thousands of children, currently live in 12 refugee camps scattered across Lebanon.

South Korea struggles to maintain demography

             By Riyaz ul Khaliq </p>    <p>ANKARA - South Korea is mulling to implement comprehensive measures to tackle demographic challenges as a result of drop in number of newborns, local media reported on Wednesday. </p>    <p>South Korea’s news agency Yonhap quoted Statistics Korea data showing that the number of newborns in the far east country fell by 6.2 percent in January compared to last year. </p>  <p>“[The fresh data is] a continuing sign of the low birthrate that has plagued Asia's fourth-largest economy for more than a decade,” Yonhap said. </p>    <p>Some 30,300 babies were born in January, compared to 32,300 babies recorded in the same month of 2018, according to the Statistics Korea data. </p>    <p>“It marks the lowest number of newborns reported for any January since 1981, when the statistics agency started compiling data on newborns on a monthly basis,” the report said. </p>    <p>The data showed that 1970 recorded the highest number of 1 million newborn in the country. However, it added that the number of newborns in South Korea came to 326,900 in 2018, witnessing a sharp decline. </p>    <p>“The government will set up a task force next month to come up with comprehensive measures to tackle demographic challenges,” South Korea's Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki was quoted as saying. </p>    <p>Earlier this month, the South Korean government data showed that young people delayed marriage due to “a prolonged economic slowdown”. </p>    <p>More than 257,500 people got married last year compared to some 264,500 in 2017, according to the Statistics Korea. </p>    <p>“The number of people tying the knot came to 21,300 in January, the lowest for any first month of the year since 1981. The number of South Koreans getting married stood at 49,285 in January 1981,” Yonhap reported the data of statistics agency.</p>    <p>The report also said that high cost of private education for kids and skyrocketing real estate prices, as well as the difficulties women face in finding jobs after spending extended time away from work to raise children are some of the reasons behind drop in number of newborns. </p>    <p>“Some young South Koreans are opting to distance themselves from life's three major milestones -- dating, marriage and having children -- because they cannot find decent jobs amid a prolonged economic slowdown,” Yonhap reported.

Afghanistan targets 1M more children in schools

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Afghan government on Saturday announced an ambitious plan to enroll at least one million children in public schools with the start of the new academic year in the country.

Noorya Nuzhat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told Anadolu Agency a robust program has been chalked out to raise public awareness and encourage parents to enroll their children, particularly girls, to schools.

She added the ministry has drafted a new strategy in this regard, which has entered the implementation phase.

New academic year began in Afghanistan on March 23, the third day of new Solar Hijri calendar enforced in the country.

This comes months after latest UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report noted that nearly half of all Afghan children aged between 7 and 17 years old – 3.7 million – are missing out on school due to worsening security conditions in recent years.

The study, part of the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children launched by the UNICEF also marked child marriage, shortage of female teachers and poor infrastructure as the main reasons further aggravating the situation.

Afghan president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, has declared this year as the ‘Year of Support for Education’ in the war-ravaged country.

Lack of water dwarfs violence as child killer: Report

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – At least 3.6 million people are in dire need of water and hygiene services in Nigeria's terror-hit northeast region, with more children dying of poor access to water than of violence, UNICEF said on Friday.

In a report published on World Water Day, the global body said the Boko Haram crisis has cut people's access to water in most parts of the region.

In "Water Under Fire", UNICEF said the lack of access to water has led to outbreak of various diseases, including cholera, with children being the worst hit.

"In north-east Nigeria, 5,365 people were affected by cholera, with 61 dying in 2017, while 12,643 people were affected and 175 died of cholera in 2018," according to the report.

Country Director of UNICEF in Nigeria Mohamed Fall said no less than 1.1 million displaced people were affected by the lack of access to water.

"Many of them are out-of-reach, in remote areas still impacted by conflict. About 800,000 people are in hard-to-reach areas and 79 percent of these are children and women,” the statement quoted Fall as saying.

The report said children under the age of 15 living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, almost three times more likely to die from diarrhea and other diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence.

The report examines mortality rates in 16 countries going through prolonged conflicts, concluding that children under the age of five are more than 20 times more likely to die from diarrhea-related causes linked to a lack of access to safe water and sanitation than from direct violence.

Syrian children continue to bear brunt of conflict

            By Meryem Goktas</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – As the conflict in Syria entered its ninth year on Friday, children inside the war-weary country continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Many young Syrian children have never known peace. Still living in refugee camps, they have been deprived of their futures and continue to face exceptionally harsh living conditions.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Anadolu Agency spoke with three children in the Babusselam refugee camp in Syria’s northern city of Azaz.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Set up by Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the camp is currently home to some 15,000 refugees, including nearly 7,000 children.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Describing Syria as his “beloved homeland”, 13-year-old Abd al-Rahman said it was “very hard to survive in a refugee camp as a child”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“My dream is to return to my home,” he said. “I want to leave these camps and I want the bombs to end.”</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“I want to run freely on my own land,” he added. “I want to play in freedom again.” </p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Mohamed Ali, another 13-year-old camp resident, voiced a similar desire for freedom and peace.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“For me, Syria is everything,” he said. “It’s where I want to live in freedom.”</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>He went on to voice hope of eventually receiving an education so that he might help his fellow Syrians.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor,” he said. “I want to treat everyone who needs help -- no matter who they are or what they do.”</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Khaled, another young camp resident, lamented the “very hard conditions” faced by him and his friends at the camp.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“It’s very cold here; there’s mud everywhere,” the 12-year-old said. “It’s not clean; we can’t play freely here.”</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“We want to return to our homes,” he added.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Khaled said that, when he grows up, he wants “to help people affected by bombs”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>“I want to be a firefighter and save people,” he said.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some 5.6 million children still need humanitarian assistance in Syria, while 2.6 million remain internally displaced.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>What’s more, an estimated 20,000 Syrian children under five years old suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF. </p>  <p><br></p>  <p>In a recent statement, UNICEF described 2018 as the “deadliest year for children in Syria” -- an indication of the harrowing conditions still faced by children in the war-torn country.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.