Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 7 March-April 2001

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Children and Youth briefly

UN Agencies Call for Funds for Last Big Push to Eradicate Polio
Mindful of the looming 2005 target to eradicate polio, the heads of the UN agencies most involved have called for renewed funding. During the first week of December, directors of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization issued reminders that the final five year $1 billion push of the 12 year battle is now poised to wipe polio from the globe.

On December 10, what is believed to be the largest immunization drive ever was launched throughout India, site of approximately 40% of last year's confirmed polio cases worldwide. The drive, planned to reach an estimated 152 million children under the age of 5, was organized by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Government of India. The virus hits mostly young children and is easily spread where there are dense populations, poor sanitation and hard-to-reach communities.

Together with India, the countries of Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh are among the last remaining significant "reservoirs" of the virus.

In addition to mammoth efforts by millions of volunteer health workers to administer the vaccine village to village, parallel initiatives are required by community and religious leaders to combat misinformation. For example, most recently in India the myth has spread that the vaccine will make boys sterile and local leaders have been requested to use their influence to repudiate this.

(Sources: www.unicef.org, www.who.org, www.unfoundation.org/unwire)

Amnesty International Launches Report on Torture of Children
Hidden Scandal, Secret Shame: Torture and Ill-Treatment of Childrenis the title of a new report issued by Amnesty International on December 8, documenting the torture and mistreatment of children in more than 50 countries.

The report is part of Amnesty's current Campaign to Stop Torture, which is taking governments to task for their failure to condemn, investigate and prosecute torturers, thus indirectly legitimizing the practice.

The report also describes how torture causes substantial physical and mental disabilities, through such irreversible effects as distorted growth patterns and trauma. Details: www.amnesty.org

International NGO Requests "How to" Information on Deinstitutionalization of Kosovo Children
Doctors of the World, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), is requesting practical information that will assist them in their new project to desinstitutionalize children in Kosovo.

The children, currently in a closed institution, have all been classified as "mentally retarded" and having special needs, but as the Doctors group points out, "their actual status is unclear as they have all grown up in a situation completely lacking in stimulation, individualized care, etc.

"Some of the children will be moved to housing that affords more independent living, while others will be moved to foster care or to a home that has superior care.

"In any case, we are looking for publications that may be relevant to the project, especially concerning deinstitutionalization in unstable environments, transition housing for children, etc."

For details, contact Marta Schaaf, program associate, Doctors in Eastern Europe and the Newly Emerging States, Doctors of the World, New York, via email schaafm@dowusa.org

UNICEF Targets First 36 Months of Life in State of the World's Children Report
Released by UNICEF on December 10, the State of the World's Children report makes a clear case for increased government investment in programs benefiting infants and young children. Agency director Carol Bellamy pointed out that science and experience have shown that nutrition and environmental stimulants have a significant impact on the development of a child's brain and critically so in the first 36 months of life.

In their first three years, children develop the ability to speak, learn and reason. Yet, these are often the years when they receive the least attention and support from governments and other agencies around the globe.

Bellamy explained that documentation of the importance of this earliest period is relatively recent and explains why most officials - and even agencies such as UNICEF - were focused instead on boosting survival rates of infants and then returning several years later to improve their access to education.

Now, it has become clear why a concentrated investment in on these crucial years will pay off: UNICEF estimates that every dollar spent on early childhood care produces a $7 return by saving money later on remedial education, health care and other social services.

The main approach of the report is that governments and families should work together on at least four three areas: registering all children at birth, ensuring their access to adequate food, clean water and health care, and protecting them from violence. Details: www.unicef.org

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