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Tsunami Shows Way To Deal With World’s Ills

Tsunami Response Shows Way To Deal With World’s Long-Standing Ills – UNICEF


The inspirational worldwide outpouring of humanitarian aid after the Indian Ocean tsunami is a lesson that belies the myths of compassion fatigue and the world as a heartless place in confronting crises in other emergencies and from other scourges, the head of United Nations Children’s Fund (<"http://www.unicef.org/">UNICEF) said today.

“If the world can mobilize so quickly and effectively against the forces of nature, it can surely mobilize quickly and effectively to make sure that every girl and boy will be in school before the year is out,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy <"http://www.unicef.org/media/media_25044.html">told a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on girls’ education in South Asia.

“For as surely as do the children of the tsunami need our attention and the world’s support so do the children in other emergency countries, for example, in Afghanistan, Darfur, Uganda and the Congo,” she said. “And so do the children living and dying where the cameras never go, in places where poverty, HIV/AIDS, gender discrimination in health and education, violence and exploitation are the reality and the quiet norm rather than the exception.”

She noted the vast international collaboration in responding to the 26 December tsunami, which killed more than 200,000, injured half a million others and left up to 5 million people in need of basic services in a dozen countries, the aid of donors, and the importance of strong national infrastructures that allowed countries to control the spread of diseases and reopen schools.

“It is a most tragic irony that within the international reactions to the tsunami emergency we might have might have found what was missing in our decades-long efforts to ensure every child their right to an education,” she declared. “We have been discussing this issue for what seems like forever and we have set goal after goal, not meeting the first one, moving it back another decade; not meeting the next one; moving it back yet again.”

In the process, the world community and individual countries have lost more than face and credibility. They have lost the lives and contributions of millions of young girls – denied their right to education, married before their time, bearing babies before their bodies and minds are ready, the poorest condemned to lives where abuse and sexual exploitation are the norm and HIV/AIDS their increasingly common fate.

She called on the participants to “take heed of the lessons of the tsunami,” to enlist the broader community, reach out to civil society organizations and the private sector, and train more teachers to be gender sensitive. Finally, development agencies and governments must step up on behalf of the young girls’ of the world.

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