Use this link to run the video: Children in the Ranks - US: Cut Military Aid to Governments Using Child Soldiers An estimated 250,000 children, some as young as eight years old, are serving in armed conflict. Children serve as spies, messengers, porters, and too often, as front-line combatants. Many female child soldiers are forced to serve as sex slaves to military commanders. Human Rights Watch is a leading voice against the use of child soldiers worldwide. Human Rights Watch co-founded the International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and helped lead the international campaign for a UN treaty to ban the use of children in armed conflict. Over 110 countries, including the United States have ratified this treaty. After months of consultation from Human Rights Watch, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) have introduced The Child Soldiers Prevention Act. Yesterday, Senator Durbin chaired a Senate hearing on child soldiers, where he used a video produced by HRW (featuring the acclaimed author of A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah) to make a compelling case for the bill. Of 10 governments worldwide implicated in the recruitment or use of child soldiers, 9 currently receive US military assistance. If passed, the Act would restrict US military financing, training, and weapons transfers to governments involved in the recruitment or use of child soldiers. Please take action today: Watch the video above to learn more about the Child Soldiers Prevention Act Contact your elected representatives and urge them to lend their support Send this page to friends and family and encourage them to take action With your help we can take the world one step closer to completely stopping the use of child soldiers.
The following words and photographs are from Zoriah: During my work documenting the AIDS crisis in Asia, I had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible human beings, some of whom are still alive, most though have already died in the short period of time since the completion of this project. From the groups of urban prostitutes living and working in the slums of Phnom Penh Cambodia, teaching each other safety, survival and financial planning while setting up clinics on the average aid agencies paperclip budget, to the quiet suffering of mothers who have unknowingly passed on a disease to their children via their fathers indiscretion, these stories and these faces linger in my mind. While aid organizations give total infection rates of about one percent, caregivers, hospice staff and the people on the ground speak of certain regions reaching up to twenty five percent HIV infection rates. With a new heroin epidemic hitting urban slums and a dramatic increase in both hetero and homosexual sex tourism, the problem is expected to reach epic proportions over the next few years. Numbers and statistics are just that, nothing more than markings on paper or words on a news program, the human side however is truly disturbing. Patients wait to die alone, coated in flies and nursed by family members. Understaffed hospitals are in such disrepair that they have been deemed biohazard and HAZMAT threats and workers refuse to even enter the premises, much less make necessary repairs and provide care to patients. In several well known hospitals I found myself literally wading through ankle deep piles of disposed needles, catheter bags and soiled linens, as patents navigated hallways with potholes that dropped through to the floors below. The human suffering is quite unreal and the faces of teenage girls, mothers, fathers and small babies wasting away in discomfort still appear vivid in my mind. This photo story is dedicated to my new friends who sit quietly and wait to die, those who choose not to sit quietly but fight for the lives and the health of their friends, family, and complete strangers. This photo story should also serve as an attack on the organizations, governments, corporations and pharmaceutical giants who quite simply are doing too little.
The following is an update on the situation in Sudan with words and photograph provided by Dan Morrison, a freelance journalist currently in the region. His Sudan reports can also be found here, here and here:
The danger and want in Darfur cannot be both an emergency and a chronic condition, and yet it now has the attributes of both. Two years after ethnic cleansing of the region's non-Arab tribes reached its height, more than two million people continue to live in camps as captive dependents of the world humanitarian community, cut off from their homes and livelihoods. Residents I interviewed at camps in South Darfur and West Darfur states were adamant that they could not and would not return to their homes in an atmosphere of continuing attacks by Arab militias. ``When they kill the Janjaweed, then we can go back,'' was a common statement. Another deterrent placed a distant second to the memory and fear of the government-backed marauders - opportunity. Widows described their pleasure at sending their children, including their daughters, to UNICEF-funded schools inside the camps. It will be a long time indeed before international community and its ``partners'' in the government of Sudan are able to replicate the range of health and educational boons that exist inside many of Darfur's displaced-person camps. It was the absence of such services that helped push the region into civil war. For those who continue to live in the countryside, outside the sometimes- protected perimeters of the camps, conditions are growing less safe and international aid more scarce. Increasing banditry, fighting between rebels and government troops, and harassment by state security services have all reduced the flow of aid to rural areas. All eyes were on January 2007, when diplomats and aid offiicals assumed a UN force would take over from the underfunded and underequipped African Union force. Sudanese diplomacy and bruised egos at the higher levels of the African Union secretariat have combined to delay that by at least six months. Peace talks in Nigeria have withstood the combined arbitrage and hectoring of the UN, AU, EU, US and UK secure in their dysfunction. Most dangerous is a projected gap in food aid that could leave 2.8 million people without food in Darfur over the coming months. ``It's big and it's frightening,'' says Carlos Veloso, the World Food Program's emergency coordinator for Darfur.
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