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Helping the children of Mali

At a health center in Mali, Kadia, 10 months with severe malnutrition, eats ready-to-eat therapeutic food. © UNICEF/MLIA2012-00018/Harandane Dicko

— This week America celebrates its independence. But many people in the world do not even enjoy the most basic freedoms, like having a place to live, food to eat, clean water to drink and access to healthcare. If you’ve been visiting our website, you know that the Sahel region in Africa is a place where even the most basic needs for survival are not being met. UNICEF has been tracking the situation in Mali and the rest of the Sahel region and is doing everything it can to save the children and families of Mali. Here is some of the work that UNICEF has been doing.

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Searching for happy endings in Mauritania

A UNICEF worker brings Rougui Sal a supply of fortified peanut paste for her two-year-old son, Idy. © UNICEF/Mauritania/2012/Mia Brandt

— Mauritania—one of the nine Sahel countries that are grappling with a life-threatening nutrition crisis—is facing a double emergency. In addition to the food crisis, the country must handle an influx of refugees from neighboring, conflict-torn Mali. All told, some 700,000 people in Mauritania are struggling to get enough to eat. U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Managing Director of Communications, Mia Brandt, recently traveled to Mauritania and witnessed firsthand the challenges facing families.

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Transparency and accountability

© UNICEF/INDA2010-00161/Graham Crouch

— UNICEF is keenly aware of the importance of transparency and accountability to all who support its lifesaving work for children. In that spirit, UNICEF’s Executive Board recently approved a proposal to make publicly available on UNICEF’s website all internal audits published after September 30, 2012. Although UNICEF already has been providing internal audits to UN Member States upon request since 2009, these audits have not been available to the public. Now UNICEF will create a special “accountability and transparency” section at its site for the internal audit reports.

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Finding new ways to improve child protection

In Haiti, psychologist Romand Alce, from the international NGO Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, speaks with a boy in a tent in the city of Ouanaminthe. The boy lives on the streets. © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2245/Marco Dormino

— Recently I attended a presentation by Eileen Munro, a professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and an expert on child protective services. As child protection is a major focus area of UNICEF’s work it was very interesting to hear what Munro had to say about systems of child protection and how they could be improved. UNICEF helps protect children from trafficking, exploitation, violence, abuse and forced labor in countries around the world. And while Munro studied child protection in the U.K., what she found could be applied everywhere. Here are a few highlights from her talk.

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Helping children in Syria cope with violence and loss

Syrian refugee children attend a remedial class, in a child-friendly center, in North Lebanon.

— Sixteen months after the start of the unrest, assaults against civilians, human rights violations, mass arrests, torture, and execution-style killings of families, including children, continue to be a reality in Syria. To protect children from the ongoing violence and to help them regain a sense of normalcy, UNICEF and its partners are providing humanitarian assistance to families caught in Syria, as well as to those who have fled Syria to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Getting displaced children back to school is a central focus of UNICEF’s efforts. School is not only important for educational purposes but also for children to make friends and develop routines to help them cope with trauma and loss. Despite repeated calls for an end to the violence in Syria, children continue to suffer as a result of the crisis. As more and more families flee the country, UNICEF urgently requires additional funding to be able to reach more Syrian children in need in the region.

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Progress on legislation to support water and sanitation programs

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0811/Grarup

— This week, the bipartisan Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 (S. 641) unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee! Our thanks to the Committee’s leaders, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), as well as the bill’s sponsors, Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Corker (R-TN).

Your voices helped make this progress possible! But the job is not done – the legislation still must pass the full Senate, and the House of Representatives still needs to pass a companion bill of the same name (H.R. 3658). You can help – keep contacting your Members of Congress to ask them to support the Water for the World Act.

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