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As UNICEF Details Child Mortality, Qs of W. Sahara Data, Peacekeeping

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 16 -- When UNICEF released new child mortality figures, it held an embargoed press conference at the UN on September 15. Inner City Press asked about the data itself -- why for example were there 195 countries listed, when there are only 193 UN member states?

   The answer was in the tables themselves: the State of Palestine was listed, as was the Holy See (which, of course, has no child data, as least not officially).  But was Western Sahara's data reported along with Morocco? Was Greenland included with Denmark? These questions should be answered.

  Since many of the countries with highest child mortality also have UN Peacekeeping missions there -- Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea Bissau for example -- Inner City Press asked the UNICEF panel -- Mickey Chopra and Dr Tessa Wardlaw with WHO's Flavia Bustreo by phone -- what the UN could actually do about these problems? Reduce conflict, build up the health infrastructure. Here's hoping.

  Back on September 4, the prevalence worldwide of violence against children was detailed by UNICEF, with charts, statistics and polling. The report is online here.

   Inner City Press asked the three-person UNICEF panel what the UN system itself should be doing about the issue, for example through its peacekeeping missions and the office of the Special Representative on Violence Against Children, Marta Santos Pais.

   The website of that office hasn't been updated since July 22. No tweets since July 25. The response from the UNICEF panel was that both “SRSGs” - that is, including Children and Armed Conflict - get only voluntary funding. That may be part of the problem. But even at the current budget, more might be expected of this office since July 22.

  And in terms of UN Peacekeeping, as Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq minutes later, no child support is yet being paid for children left behind in Haiti by the “peacekeepers.” We'll have more on that.

  Back on August 21 when the Gaza field director of UNICEF Pernilleae Ironside took questions at the UN on August 21, Inner City Press asked her when a Board of Inquiry into the destruction of UN premises like the UNRWA schools will begin. Video here.

Ironside said that will be up to the Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon and UNRWA. Earlier this week Robert Serry told Inner City Press the same thing. But where is the Board of Inquiry? On the one conducted in 2009, Inner City Press reported on how Ban Ki-moon allowed himself to be lobbied and blunted in his cover letter recommendations in the report, later shown in detail by a cable published by Wikileaks.

Does that explain the delay?

Inner City Press also asked Ironside about her statement in her recent Reddit Ask Me Anything that “Gaza's economy has been severely depressed, particularly since the closure of the informal tunnel system with Egypt in July 2013.” Ironside said Gazans are well educated and eager to work, but precluded from doing so; she said the negotiators should take this into account.

Ironside said she previously served the UN in Goma in Eastern Congo, and more recently in Yemen. With the Houthis now in and around Sana'a, that's something we'd like to hear more about.


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