UNICEF warns emergence of 'lost covid-19 generation' over pandemic's impact on children

Agencies
November 19, 2020

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Geneva, Nov 19: The world risks acquiring a generation of children whose education, nutrition and health have been irreversibly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

The fund released a report titled "Averting a Lost COVID Generation" ahead of the World Children's Day on November 20.

"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a persistent myth that children are barely affected by the disease. Nothing could be further from the truth ... While children can get sick and can spread the disease, this is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg. Disruptions to key services and soaring poverty rates pose the biggest threat to children. The longer the crisis persists, the deeper its impact on children's education, health, nutrition and well-being. The future of an entire generation is at risk," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, as quoted in a press release to the report.

According to the report, one in nine coronavirus cases in 87 countries were confirmed in children and adolescents under 20 years of age, or 11 per cent of all 25.7 million cases reported by these countries.
Meanwhile, school closures have affected 572 million children worldwide, or 33 per cent, according to the report.

UNICEF has argued against school closures, saying that schools are not the main driver of community transmission and that children are more likely to get infected outside school settings, with the net benefit of keeping schools open with basic safety measures in place outweighing the costs of closing them.

Furthermore, the report documented a 40-per cent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children across 135 countries, with 265 million children still missing out on school meals globally.

Yet, the most serious threat to children is associated with COVID-19-related disruptions to critical health and social services, according to the report. Fear of infection was the reason of drop in coverage of health services such as routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases, and maternal health services across in around one-third of 140 countries reviewed by UNICEF.

The agency provided a six-point list of recommendations to governments and the private sector, urging them to prioritize the needs of children.

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News Network
May 12,2022

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Colombo, May 12: Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka's prime minister for the sixth time on Thursday, though the veteran politician has never completed a full term in office.

The 73-year-old's political career appeared to be drawing to a close before this week, when he agreed to helm a unity administration and help steer the South Asian island nation through a crippling economic crisis.

"This is a historic event," Tamil legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP in reference to Wickremesinghe's latest return to the top office.

"This shows the desperate situation in our country."

Wickremesinghe is the sole parliamentary representative of the United National Party, a once-powerful political force that was nearly wiped out in Sri Lanka's last elections.

The former lawyer hails from a political family and his uncle Junius Jayewardene served as president for more than a decade.

But Wickremesinghe once told AFP he would have likely pursued a career as a journalist, had the government of the day not nationalised his family's newspaper business in 1973.

He was first appointed premier in 1993 after the assassination of then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was killed in a bomb attack by Tamil Tiger guerrillas during Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war.

Underscoring the dynastic nature of Sri Lanka's politics, Premadasa's son Sajith is the current opposition leader and had also been touted as a possible prime ministerial candidate this week.

Wickremesinghe's first term in office lasted little more than a year.

He returned to power in 2001, earning a reputation for sound economic management after steering the country out of recession.

Conflict with the president saw him sacked before his term was over, and he spent the next decade in the political wilderness.

Wickremasinghe lost two presidential contests and led his party to a string of election defeats, prompting even his own supporters to dub him a "record loser".

He was nonetheless sworn in as prime minister again in 2015 after the election defeat of president Mahinda Rajapaksa after the opposition rallied behind him as a unity candidate against the authoritarian leader.

His "Mr Clean" image was muddied later that year when his administration was rocked by an insider trading scam involving central bank bonds.

A key accused in the multi-million dollar scam was the central bank chief at the time, Arjuna Mahendran, who was Wickremesinghe's schoolmate and choice for the job.

He was accused of cronyism during his tenure and failing to prosecute members of the previous Rajapaksa regime, members of which had been accused of graft, kickbacks and siphoning off public finances.

Political conflict with the powerful Rajapaksa family also threw the country into crisis in 2018, with Mahinda taking over the premiership for six weeks before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional.

Wickremesinghe returns to office to replace Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday after his supporters attacked anti-government demonstrators, and later had to be rescued from his residence by the military.

He will serve at the pleasure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda's younger brother, who has fought off calls for his own resignation over the government's mismanagement of the economic crisis.

Wickremesinghe will be taking charge of a bankrupt nation in default of its $51-billion foreign debt and without money to import essential goods.

His status as a pro-West, free-market reformist could smooth bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and foreign creditors.

But he has already warned there will be no quick fix to the nation's unprecedented economic woes.

"The worst is yet to come. We have very high inflation now and hyperinflation is on its way," Wickremesinghe told parliament last week.

"We should start addressing the issues now, we can't put it off any longer," he added. 

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Agencies
May 10,2022

Colombo, May 10: Sri Lanka's former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is facing calls for his arrest from Opposition politicians for inciting violence against peaceful anti-government protesters that claimed at least eight lives, left over 200 people injured and saw arson attacks on the homes of several politicians.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, resigned as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital.

The resignation of the prime minister has automatically annulled the Cabinet and the country is currently being run by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused by the Opposition of inciting the ruling party mobs to attack peaceful protesters by making a defiant speech while addressing several thousands of his supporters to deflect calls for his resignation.

“Rajapaksa (Mahinda) must be arrested and brought before the law," M A Sumanthiran, the main Tamil legislator, said in a message.

The same sentiments were expressed by former President Maithripala Sirisena and the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya party's leader Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

“He must be arrested for encouraging violence. There was no reason to attack the peaceful protesters," Sirisena said.

At least eight people were killed in the violence. The Colombo national hospital said at least 217 people had been admitted for treatment.

One of the protesters who had been brutally assaulted by the Rajapaksa supporters remains in a very critical condition.

Mahinda Rajapaksa later resigned, saying he was making way for his brother president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to set up an all-party interim government.

There were reports from all parts of the island of arson attacks on the homes of ruling party politicians, including on the ancestral house of the Rajapaksa family in the deep southern district of Hambantota.

Meanwhile, Mahinda Rajapaksa vacated the Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister, Tuesday morning, according to media reports.

The police on Monday used tear gas and fired in the air to stop a mob which was trying to break into Temple Trees, the office cum residence of the prime minister.

An all-island curfew, which was scheduled to be lifted on Tuesday, was extended last night until Wednesday as arson attacks were reported from most parts of the country.

Army chief General Shavendra Silva called for calm and said the necessary action would be taken to maintain law and order.

In the current state of emergency, the troops are given extensive powers to arrest people.

The Opposition parties urged the reconvening of Parliament before the scheduled date of May 17.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena also requested the President to immediately summon Parliament.

The trade unions announced that they would launch a continuous strike from Tuesday to protest against the government-backed crackdown on the peaceful protests.

The violence occurred as pressure mounted on the embattled government led by President Gotabaya to form an interim administration to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second time that an emergency was declared in Sri Lanka in just over a month as the island nation was in the grip of the worst economic crisis.

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News Network
May 9,2022

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Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as his loyalists went on rampage today, injuring more than 100 anti-government protesters in Colombo. A ruling party MP was killed in the clashes, many were hospitalised.

Here are the latest developments:

>> MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa, and was later found dead after trying to take refuge in a nearby building, officers said. Athukorala, an MP from the Polonnaruwa district, was surrounded by anti-government groups at the north western town of Nittambuwa, the police said. The protesters said the bullets were fired from his SUV first. Following this, when the angry mobs toppled the car, he fled and took refuge in a building and committed suicide by pulling his own revolver, the people said.  Later, the lawmaker and his personal security officer were found dead, the police said.

>> Mr Rajapaksa, 76, had sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a "new unity government".

>> "I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis," the Prime Minister said in the letter, reported news agency AFP.

>> The cabinet now stands dissolved. The largest opposition party has refused to join any government headed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.

>> The biggest clashes since the economic crisis hit the island nation started this morning when supporters of the Rajapaksa family went on the rampage.

>> The loyalists had attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the President's office in downtown Colombo since April 9.

>> In a first, the riot squad was called in to reinforce the police. Earlier, soldiers were pressed into service to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but never to prevent clashes.

>> At least 100 injured people have been hospitalised, police sources have said.

>> The police fired tear gas shells and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was later widened to span the country of 22 millon people.

>> Sri Lanka has suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations. 

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