Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Right to be a girl: Ending child marriage in Asia Pacific

Arjina, 13, from Bangladesh with her mother. Her parents agreed to delay
her marriage until she was 18 after hearing arguments against child marriage
© UNICEF/2014/Paul
With the first Girl Summit taking place today in London, UK, I am thinking of child brides here in East Asia and the Pacific, where one in five women were married before the age of 18. Most of these girls come from rural areas and from the poorest families.

When I was with UNICEF Philippines, I remember travelling to a village in the south. I passed by a wake where four very young children were wailing beside a makeshift coffin. I stopped by to pay my respects and it was only when I signed the condolence book that I learnt that the deceased mother was only 16 years old.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Special delivery: reaching pregnant women with health care in Papua

Neli with her daughter and newborn boy in their communal home
© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Andy Brown
Neli Kogoya, 23, sits on the floor of a communal house that she shares with two other families. She cradles a two-week old baby wrapped in a blanket on her lap, while a nurse checks her blood pressure. It is election season and convoys of trucks pass by outside, broadcasting campaign messages through megaphones.

The house is in Sapalek village in Jayawijaya, a remote mountainous region of Papua. Neli works here as a caterer, while her husband is away studying. She has two children – a girl Yosiana, who is nearly two years old, and baby boy Eliup, who was born just two weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Solomon Island students thank UNICEF

Lyrics of the song the children sang during the visit.
© UNICEF Pacific/2014/Tahu
The lyrics of the song speaks volumes of the gratitude that Titinge Primary School students have towards the Government and people of New Zealand as well as UNICEF. Their appreciation is for enhancing their learning environment through the solar power for schools pilot project and the upgrade of water and sanitation facilities.

Early this week the students got the chance to present the song to the Ms. Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director (DED), Daniel Toole, UNICEF Regional Director (RD) for East Asia and Pacific and a representatives from the New Zealand High Commission Office, during a special visit to the school.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reaching all mothers and newborns with care

A mother with her one day old baby in Port Moresby Hospital, Papua New Guinea
© UNICEF/2014/Justine Nanking
A new baby is such a bundle of joy for the family. The very thing I miss about working as an obstetrician is the sheer delight of being part of the nature’s miracle. Recently, as UNICEF Maternal and Child Health Specialist, I visited a hospital in Ulaanbaatar, where I met Mandel (not her real name), a young woman suffering from obstructed labour.

She had just safely delivered her baby thanks to a chain of effective interventions which allows for early recognition and referral of pregnancy complications that UNICEF helped to put in place. In moments like this, I am most proud of what we do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Day Against Child Labour

A child works in a construction area in the province of Masbate, Eastern Philippines
© UNICEF/PHIA2004-0011/MIKE ALQUINTO

Today, on the World Day Against Child Labour, I think back of the children I met when I was working for the Child Rights Desk at the Human Rights Institute in the Philippines. 

I met children who made brooms for a living, stepping with their bare feet first on coconut husks and then to make the husks more durable, soaking them in the chemicals normally used to embalm dead people. I talked to children who helped their families earn money by making pyrotechnics devices, such as fireworks or matches. Most of them were suffering from respiratory and eyesight problems. A number had burns, as fires were common occurrence in a neighbourhood of makeshift houses.