Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reaching the unreached: immunisation in East Asia and the Pacific

An 11-year-old polio victim leans on a walking cane in China
© UNICEF/NYHQ1996-0191/Liza Barrie
I still remember my first work mission from over 20 years ago, to follow up a two-year polio case in a remote village in China. When I entered the house, I was shocked to find that it was not only the boy who was unable to walk, but also his parents. They were both polio survivors.

Tears rolled down my face when I saw that the mother could only move her arms, while the father ‘walked’ with one arm and one leg on one side of body. I could never forget that tragic moment. From that moment on, immunization has changed from being my job to a lifetime duty.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Japan, children help prepare for future natural disasters

Neena Sasaki’s home was destroyed in the Tohoku tsunami. Children are key to building resilient communities. © UNICEF/2011/Adam Dean
“I lost my grandparents in the Tohoku tsunami. But I don’t want other children to lose their relatives in future tsunamis,” said 12-year-old Ryusei.

These simple but strong words struck the audience at a symposium commemorating the three-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami on 27 March 2014. The Tohoku earthquake was one of the most powerful ever recorded. “For me, this feeling is the foundation of disaster risk reduction,” Ryusei continued. “That is why I decided to get involved in the community rebuilding project in my town.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Inspiring Papua’s children to go the extra mile for education

Lima, 7, makes a calculation at school in rural Wamena district, Papua.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Andy Brown
There’s a chill in the air and the sun is barely up when 8-year-old Tolaka and her sister Lima, 7, leave home for school at 6am. It takes them an hour to walk to class from the thatched hut they share with their mother, close to the banks of the River Baliem, in Papua’s Kurima sub district.

The route takes them over flooded grassland and along woodland tracks sticky with mud to SD Advent Maima primary school. “I’m used to walking so I don’t get tired at all,” says Tolaka. “I’m happy to come to school. I have a lot of friends here and we like playing and skipping together.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Jackie Chan

Sometimes you just get lucky. And so I found myself in a labyrinth of scaffolding and plastic sheeting, underneath the stage at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium, listening the roar of 18,000 fans. They were there to see the cream of China’s modern musicians, supported by K-pop and J-pop superstars, and to celebrate the birthday of UNICEF’s fabulous Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan.

Since 2004, Jackie has travelled the world with UNICEF supporting children in need. In his first year as a UNICEF Ambassador, Jackie visited Cambodia and helped children learn about HIV/AIDS prevention and landmines. In Viet Nam, he fought to end stigma and discrimination against children with AIDS, and helped mothers learn how to prevent passing the disease to their children.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Young survivor of the Solomon Islands flash floods tells his story

Isiah Andrew at West Kola-Ridge. © UNICEF Pacific/2014/ATahu
Isiah Andrew, 8 years old, may be one of the youngest to survive the dreadful flash floods that swept hundreds of homes away in the Solomon Islands, leaving 17 people dead, 30 missing and an estimated 12,000 people homeless as of yesterday.

Isiah lives with his parents in Wagina, a settlement in Choiseul province. A week before the floods, he came to Honiara to spend his one week school break with his sister as he always does. But little did he know, this holiday would be a haunting one for the rest of his life.