One in five children in developed world in relative poverty: UN

Even in Japan and Finland, among the best performing countries in the list, around a fifth of 15-year-olds do not reach baseline educational standards. (Reuters)
Updated 15 June 2017
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One in five children in developed world in relative poverty: UN

PARIS: One in five children in rich countries lives in relative poverty, according to a UNICEF report published Thursday that put the US and New Zealand among the world’s worst performers for youth well-being.
Nearly 13 percent of children in those countries lack access to sufficient safe and nutritious food, the report said, with that number rising to 20 percent in the US and Britain.
“Higher incomes do not automatically lead to improved outcomes for all children, and may indeed deepen inequalities,” said Sarah Cook, director of the UNICEF Innocenti research office that published the study.
“Governments in all countries need to take action to ensure the gaps are reduced and progress is made,” she said.
The “Report Card” took into account factors such as education, mental health, alcohol abuse, economic opportunities and the environment to rank 41 high-income countries for overall youth well-being.
Germany and the Nordic countries topped the list while Romania, Bulgaria and Chile came in at the bottom, with New Zealand and the US in 34th and 37th place respectively.
The US had relatively low scores in terms of poverty, hunger, health, education and inequality.
New Zealand performed particularly badly in terms of adolescent mental health, with the highest suicide rate in the world for people aged 15 to 19 — almost three times the average for the countries surveyed.
In response to the report, the New Zealand Psychological Society said there was no excuse for such statistics in a wealthy developed nation.
“These statistics paint a picture of many young people being left behind in a country that should be able to provide for all,” society president Quentin Abraham said.
“This report calls for action from the government and us all to develop policies that make sure children and young people are able to lead full and active lives.”
The Child Poverty Action Group said the figures were “depressing” and pointed out that child health care subsidies in New Zealand stopped at 13, when they were entering the vulnerable teenage years.
“The link between child mental health and poverty cannot be ignored,” said group spokeswoman Innes Ashes, a paediatrics professor at Auckland University.
The number of adolescents reporting mental health problems is increasing in the majority of the countries included in the study, along with the rate of obesity among young people.
Even in Japan and Finland, among the best performing countries in the list, around a fifth of 15-year-olds do not reach baseline educational standards, the report said as it called for greater focus on disadvantaged groups.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.