Wednesday, March 02, 2005

UNICEF is on the march again

We heard a certain amount from UNICEF in the days immediately after the tsunami, when its spokespersons made various pronouncements about children being kidnapped by unscrupulous … well … kidnappers.

No evidence was ever produced and the countries in question, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, announced that they would make sure that this did not happen. That was the end of the story.

UNICEF then reappeared with suggestions that the traumatized children of the tsunami area would need counselling. Luckily, most of the surviving children were taken by their remaining families or villages.

At the time and later, this blog suggested that UNICEF might find it useful to investigate the traumas experienced by children in such countries as DR Congo, where the UN troops had systematically raped and abused them.

UNICEF is still not looking into the case of the children of DR Congo (or any other country that has suffered from illegal behaviour by the blue-helmeted troops). Instead, it has produced a report that shows the growth of child poverty in rich countries.

As child poverty is defined as growing up in families with less than 50 per cent of the median income of that country, it seems rather hard to work out exactly how it can grow or decrease.

Presumably, in the countries where it has decreased, the median income has and, therefore, the number of families on less than half of it. Or, maybe not. And how does this square with the other confident assertion by the UN, UNICEF and various other alphabet soup organizations that child obesity is also growing in rich countries?

Surely, poverty stricken children, who do not have enough to eat and have to run around from dawn to dusk, working their hands off, in order to contribute to the family income, cannot be obese.

Surely, it is only children, who have every electronic toy under the sun and who, therefore, spend their time playing with them, in between stuffing themselves with rather expensive snacks, that are obese.

Of course, in countries where there is no poverty as measured by world standards – no clean water, no proper housing or sanitation, insufficient food etc – there is plenty of work for organizations and sociologists.

Peter Adamson of UNICEF, for example, says:
"There is a strong statistical correlation between poverty in childhood and a variety of very well documented problems in later life. The likelihood of poor health, of educational underachievement, of dropping out of school early and of long-term welfare dependence."
Those likelihoods could be solved some other way, but let that pass. It is still not what most Africans would call poverty.

Not to be outdone, an American sociologist, Susan Mayer, has stated, after explaining that it is difficult to define poverty (I’ll say it is difficult, when one sign of poverty is having more DVDs than the less poverty-stricken kids at school),
"…income is positively correlated with virtually every dimension of child well-being that social scientists measure, and this is true for every country for which we have data".
In other words, if you have a bigger income, you can buy more things. Duh!

Which still leaves us with the question of what exactly UNICEF thinks it is doing with the many billions of money it receives every year. Why does it not look at the problems children face in countries that are destroyed by ongoing wars, massacres, diseases and, above all, the misbehaviour of UN troops?

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