8 Mai 2002

ANGOLA: Kriegsgeschädigte Kinder in Österreich

12 kriegsgeschädigte und traumatisierte Kinder aus Angola befinden sich auf Vermittlung von Friedensdorf International – die österreichische Zweigorganisation hat ihren Sitz im oberösterreichischen Steyr – derzeit zur Behandlung in Österreich.

Die Kinder wurden Anfang Mai auf dem Flughafen Wien-Schwechat von Ärzten und Pflegepersonal in Empfang genommen und sollen in den kommenden Monaten in verschiedenen österreichischen Spitälern medizinisch und psychologisch rehabilitiert werden. Die Gruppe, zusammengestellt von einer angolanischen Partnerorganisation von Friedensdorf in Luanda, wurde auf ihrer Reise nach Deutschland und Österreich vom Wiener Radiojournalisten Franz Fluch begleitet. Diverse Zeitungs-, Radio- und Fernsehberichte sollen in den kommenden Wochen und Monaten Interesse an Angola und Unterstützung des sozialen Wiederaufbaus wecken.

Die Aktion wird auch von SADOCC unterstützt (Interessent/inn/en an einer Mitarbeit an der SADOCC-Arbeitsgruppe Angola sind eingeladen, sich unter angola@sadocc.at zu melden).

„One of the worst places in the world for children“ ist der Titel eines UNO-Berichts über Kinder in Angola vom 8. Mai, den wir im Folgenden widergeben:

Angola is one of the worst places in the world to be a child. One child in three dies before the age of five and only 30 percent of those who survive ever make it to school, a new rights monitoring group said on Wednesday, May 8. A statement ahead of the launch of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict by several NGOs said that according to UNICEF, children in Angola form more than half the population but little attention is paid to their needs. There has been largely silence over the violations of their rights by government and opposition armed forces during the war.

The protracted conflict, only recently halted by the 4 April ceasefire, will have severe psycho-social repercussions for children and adolescents, most of whom have never known peace. Many children exhibit trauma symptoms like fright, insecurity, and disturbed sleep, the NGOs warned. Previous exposure to violence puts them at a greater risk of future involvement in violence.

Although the war dominated headlines coming out of Angola, studies have shown that more people have died from malnutrition, disease and poor water and sanitation than direct conflict. As the information flow opens up in Angola, an International Medical Corps report said that Angolan children under five face a greater risk of poor health than children anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa.

Up to 70 percent of children are not registered which inhibits access to health and other services where they are available. The health system has been described as being "in a shambles after years of neglect." Without trained attendants at birth, the infant mortality rate is reported to be as high as 172 deaths per 1,000 births.

Immunisation rates in Angola are among the lowest in the world so preventable diseases threaten children's lives. Malaria is the greatest risk causing 50 percent of under-five deaths. Just over half of the children under five in Angola are underweight.

Exact figures on HIV/AIDS are not available and beyond Luanda there are shortages of testing kits, but at least 7,900 children are infected with the virus. According to UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation an estimated 98,000 children under 15 have lost a mother or both parents to the disease and about 62,000 children are AIDS orphans.

According to Oxfam, the 30 percent of Angolan children who do make it to school have to put up with few resources and overcrowding. Up to 90 children can be found in one classroom around Luanda. Of the children who do study, only 34 percent reach grade five and only the elite have access to higher education. Some children start late or leave early so that they can earn a living. The war has created large scale population upheavals and though the NGOs say it is difficult to conduct accurate assessments, an estimated four million people have been displaced - half of them children. According to NGO interviews, of these children 82 percent are estimated to have come under fire, and 56 percent had watched someone trigger a landmine.

Landmines in Angola particularly threaten women and young girls as they forage for food and firewood. Some anti-personnel mines were often brightly painted so children picked them up.

The war was not just something children watched. Angola's military law established 20 as the minimum age of recruitment, but the low level of birth registration exacerbated underage recruitment. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers estimates that 3,000 children could be in the ranks of the national army.

The UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), OCHA, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the US Department of State all reported the recruitment of children by rebel UNITA forces. The demobilisation of about 8,500 child soldiers was halted by the resurgence of war in 1998. By then an estimated 3,000 children had been demobilised. By 2000 there was a noticeable increase in child recruitment by both sides.

The watchlist comes as over 120 nations meet at a UN Special Session on Children in New York until 10 May. Olara Otunnu, the UN Special Representative for armed conflict and children, was reported as saying this week that the three-day special session was expected to work hard to mobilize international political will and public opinion behind the protection, rights and well-being of the war-affected children. The watchlist aims to collect and publicise information on each country in conflict so that decision makers can access key information on issues affecting children, ranging from landmines to health matters.

So far it has profiled Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi and is working on reports on the West Bank/Gaza strip and Israel, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will be launched on Thursday, May 9, in conjunction with a UN Special Session on Children panel discussion entitled 'Protecting Boys and Girls During Armed Conflict'. The steering committee includes Care International, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, International Save the Children Alliance, Norwegian Refugee Council, Women's Commission on Refugee Women and Children and World Vision International. More details: www.watchlist.org (IRIN)


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