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Carol Bellamy of the United Nations Children's Fund discusses the heartbreak she witnessed on a tour through tsunami-ravaged Asia

Carol Bellamy of the United Nations Children's Fund discusses the heartbreak she witnessed on a tour through tsunami-ravaged Asia

Carol Bellamy of the United Nations Children's Fund discusses the heartbreak she witnessed on a tour through tsunami-ravaged Asia

UNICEF Head on Protecting Tsunami’s Smallest Victims

Carol Bellamy of the United Nations Children's Fund discusses the heartbreak she witnessed on a tour through tsunami-ravaged Asia, plus what’s next for the UN and its relationship with America


Caption: Bellamy (right) in Sri Lanka: ' We need to find out which children have lost their parents' Photo Shehzad Noorani / AP

By Marie Valla
Updated: 12:55 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2005

Jan. 8 - After 10 years spent at the helm of UNICEF and with only four months to go before her term expires in May, Carol Bellamy thought that she had seen the worst. In its annual report published last month, The United Nations Children's Fund denounced yet again the ravages of wars and poverty on children, and the fact that, as witnessed in Beslan, Russia, children were increasingly becoming not just the victims but also the targets of the world's violence. If only her tenure had ended on that note, sounded days before the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that has since crippled south Asia. Ten days after the disaster, Bellamy called "rather conservative" the staggering estimate that about a third of the tsunami's 155,000 victims are under the age of 18.

Even more unsettling was a recent Reuters report that a UNICEF worker in Kuala Lumpur received an unsolicited cell phone text message that offered to sell children according to buyers’ wishes. “Three hundred orphans aged 3-10 years from Aceh for adoption," the message reportedly read. "All paperwork will be taken care of. No fee. Please state age and sex of child required." Bellamy called the prospect of child trafficking "a real issue, but also one that existed before in the region. But it's true that there are bad people who tend to take advantage of bad situations and this is a very bad situation." NEWSWEEK's Marie Valla caught up with Bellamy after she addressed a special meeting of the European Council in Brussels to discuss what she saw on her recent tour of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Ten days after the catastrophe, what's the latest update on the situation of children?
Carol Bellamy: We believe that children represent about a third of the victims and this is a rather conservative assessment. For one thing, children under 18 make up 30 to 40 percent of the population of these countries. And they have a higher potential of being victims. These are children for example who, although they live by the water, often have never learnt to swim.

The spectacle must be absolutely haunting. Is there any particular memory that sticks to your mind?
The scale is just unimaginable. I was in Sri Lanka. Half [of one] town had been washed away and there were five people near the water. I went down and asked why they were still there. They were just waiting for their children to come back. This was just heartbreaking.

Many steps are being taken to care for children. What do you think of Sri Lanka's decision to declare a moratorium on adoption?
I think it is a bit premature to talk about adoption. Ultimately we'll get to it but for the moment, we, that is UNICEF and the national governments, need to find out what the situation is, which children have lost their parents. We're talking about countries that have a long-standing and substantial tradition of extended family. So we need to find where there are some family members that can look after them. Right now we're working with Indonesia and Sri Lanka to provide registration forms for the children. I'd say it makes sense to have a moratorium until more is known about the status of the children, which really shouldn't take that long.


NEWSWEEK’s George Wehrfritz is with a relief boat touring Sumatra’s tsunami-devastated west coast. He reports from Padang on efforts to aid survivors

There is something disturbing about the fact that despite its scope, this disaster seems to have little impact on the world economy.
But that's not true for local economy of countries like Sri Lanka or the Maldives. The case may be different in Indonesia where the Aceh region counts for only 3 or 4 percent of the country's economy. It may not stop the world economy but globalization doesn't just have to be economic. It can be human. I was just at a meeting of the European Council and this is something you realize when you listen to representatives of the member states. A Swedish friend was telling me, “We haven't had a war for a hundred years but we had never seen anything like this.”

The UN has now firmly taken the lead in the assistance to the stricken Asian countries. Were you worried at any point that it would be marginalized?
I know that there were questions raised in the public debate but the main actor in humanitarian operations still remains the UN. There will always be some bilateral action but in the case of humanitarian crises, you'll always have the World Food Program, UNICEF or the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. But the UN isn't running the operations here. It is lending assistance. It is the local governments who are running the rescue operations.

What should the role of the U.S. be? Can it improve its international reputation?
You know for all the talk about the difficulties between the UN and the U.S., the U.S. is still the largest donor to most UN humanitarian agencies. It is a major government donor to UNICEF. It is the U.S. helicopters that are out there. They're not the only player but they're an important one.

Mark Malloch Brown was just named as Kofi Annan's chief of staff. Do you think that he can pave the way for a reform of the UN like he did at the United Nations Development Program?
Yes, I know Mark very well and I think that he can offer the same vitality and direction in support of a reform of the UN administration like he did at the UNDP.

To what are you going to employ the four months you have left as head of UNICEF?
In my 10 years at UNICEF, I think that we have built a strong and efficient organization that has been able to play a key role as an advocate for children and that's whet we'll do for four more months. Obviously I hadn't anticipated this crisis. Some of our ongoing work is critical like our fight for every kid to have access to education, our fight against the AIDS/HIV epidemics. We can't ignore the other crises. But we can't underestimate the enormous scale of this crisis either. And I hope that UNICEF can keep on participating to the best of its capacities.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
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In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.

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Breaking Taboo, Mandela Says Son Died of AIDS 6 Jan
Dreadlocked PCV raises eyebrows in Africa 6 Jan
RPCV Jose Ravano directs CARE's efforts in Sri Lanka 6 Jan
Persuading Retiring Baby Boomers to Volunteer 6 Jan
Inventor of "Drown Proofing" retires 6 Jan
NPCA Membership approves Board Changes 5 Jan
Timothy Shriver announces "Rebuild Hope Fund" 5 Jan
More Water Bottles, Fewer Bullets 4 Jan
Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker runs Solterra Books 2 Jan
Peace Corps Fund plans event for September 30 Dec
RPCV Carmen Bailey recounts bout with cerebral malaria 28 Dec
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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
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Story Source: Newsweek

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Directors - Bellamy; COS - Sri Lanka; Tsunami; United Nations; Unesco



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