Children are paying the price of adult wars and unrest. Here's how we can help them.

Children pay the price of adult conflicts around the world—and the cost is way too high.  

A new report from UNICEF—the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund—paints a tragic picture of our world, where war, conflict, and poverty define daily life for millions of children.

The numbers for 2018 alone are staggering—30 million children have been forced from their homes by violence and insecurity. Those who remain in war zones face horrific and ongoing violations, including being recruited to fight, being used as human shields, being raped or forced into marriage, and experiencing severe acute malnutrition.


Those numbers are hard to wrap our minds around, but 30 million children is more than the populations of America’s 10 largest cities—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose—combined. And that’s just the children who have fled violence, not the ones still living in it.

“It is devastating,” Caryl Stern, CEO and President of UNICEF USA told Upworthy. “It’s been a year of conflict, and the children, because they are the most vulnerable, suffer the most.”

In some countries, more than half of children are in need of humanitarian services.

Parts of the Middle East and Africa in particular are dire places for children, though kids in Eastern Ukraine and Myanmar are also under duress due to conflict.

Stern shared with us some of the specifics:

  • Violence and bloodshed remain a daily occurrence in Afghanistan. Some 5,000 children were killed or maimed within the first three quarters of 2018—equal to all of 2017. Children there make up 89 percent of civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war.
  • In Cameroon, 93 villages have allegedly been partially or totally burned due to increasing conflict in the areas, with many children experiencing extreme levels of violence.
  • The Central African Republic has seen a dramatic resurgence in fighting, and two out of three children are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children are being forced into fighting and suffering sexual abuse by armed groups and militias. In addition, an estimated 4.2 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), meaning they’ll die without intervention.
  • In Iraq, children and families returning to their homes after heavy violence continue to be exposed to the danger of unexploded devices. Thousands of families remain displaced and now face the additional threats of freezing winter temperatures and flash floods.
  • In the Lake Chad basin, at least 1,041 schools are closed or non-functional due to violence, fear of attacks, or unrest, affecting nearly 445,000 children.
  • A recent surge in violence in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has left 1,478 schools closed.
  • In Myanmar, the UN continues to receive reports of ongoing violations of the rights of Rohingya remaining in northern Rakhine State, which include allegations of killings, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests, in addition to barriers to health and education for children.
  • In northeast Nigeria, armed groups, including Boko Haram factions, continue to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters, or used as ‘human bombs’. In February, the group abducted 110 girls and one boy from a technical college in Dapchi. While most of the children have since been released, five girls died and one is still being held captive as a slave.
  • In Palestine, over 50 children were killed and hundreds more injured this year, many whilst demonstrating against deteriorating living conditions in Gaza. Children in Palestine and Israel have been exposed to fear, trauma and injuries.
  • In South Sudan, more than 150 women and girls in Bentiu reported suffering horrific sexual assault. Relentless conflict and insecurity throughout the annual lean season pushed 6.1 million people into extreme hunger. Even with the advent of the rainy season, more than 43 per cent of the population remain food insecure.
  • In Syria, between January and September, the UN verified the killing of 870 children – the highest number ever in the first nine months of any year since the start of the conflict in 2011. Attacks continued throughout the year, including the killing of 30 children in the eastern village of Al Shafa in November.
  • In eastern Ukraine, more than four years of conflict destroyed and damaged hundreds of schools and forced 700,000 children to learn in fragile environments, amidst volatile fighting and the dangers posed by unexploded weapons of war.
  • In Yemen, the UN has verified 1,427 children killed or maimed in attacks, including an ‘unconscionable’ attack on a school bus in Sa’ada. Every 10 minutes in Yemen, a child dies due to preventable diseases, and 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

"The earthquake, you can’t predict, or that disease we don’t have a cure for," says Stern. "But these are man-made emergencies, which is different than some other years . . . In the year 2019 we can do better, we must do better, we should do better."

Here’s how UNICEF is helping—and how you can too.

UNICEF helps the world's children by providing nutrition aid and water where needed, and also by ensuring access to education and creating child-friendly spaces everywhere they serve.

“We do that in the refugee camps, we do that along some of the long walks children are taking these days,” says Stern. “And we do that because we recognize that for future development, children need to be afforded the opportunity to just be a kid. They have to play, they have to sing, they have to dance, they have to have music, they have to be able to let some of what they’re bearing witness to out of them.”

Stern points out that creating child-friendly spaces helps free up parents to deal with the crisis they are facing and make a plan for what’s next. It also helps give UNICEF workers a chance to diagnose severe trauma and direct children to the services they need.

UNICEF is also “the plumber of the UN." They do all the water plans in addition to providing nutrition response and emergency aid. “UNICEF are the people who monitor the children on the ground in countries all over the world,” says Stern, “measuring arms, weighing babies, checking and trying to provide emergency response when it’s severe acute malnutrition.”  

How can those of us who live in secure nations help? The most direct way, of course, is funds. Donations are always welcome at unicefusa.org.

"In addition to dollars, which are truly desperately needed,” Stern says, “I think the American people need to depoliticize the care and feeding of children. We need to understand that children don’t vote. Children don’t make decisions about where they’re going to grow up or which country they’re going to be born, they don’t get to pick where they’re born. Children are the innocent victims of the decisions of adults.”

“There is nothing political about saving the lives of children,” Stern adds.

Stern says that a society should be and is measured by how we treat children, and by that measure, we are failing.

“As long as 15,000 children die each day from causes we already know how to prevent, we’re failing,” she says. “Children are our most precious resource and it’s not okay that 15,000 die every day. And that’s not going to change until we—everybody—take responsibility and stops referencing them as Syria’s children, or Myanmar’s children, or Latin America’s children, or American children. They are children, plain and simple. And we need to protect and ensure their futures.”

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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