This year the world has the opportunity to keep more children safe. Together we can help children realise their rights, fulfil their potential and protect them from violence and danger. How the world looks tomorrow is dependent on how children grow up today - and the time to act is now, we haven't a moment to lose.
The well of pain runs deep in many parts of Africa, and yet it is young people who offer the best chance for true conflict resolution, and lasting peace. Conflict-affected youth are often the most ambitious, the hardest workers. They want back what was taken from them: opportunity. They want an education and they want to earn a livable wage.
This time last year I travelled to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to see how Unicef, the world's leading children's organisation, is keeping Syrian children safe and warm as the temperatures plummet. Nothing could have prepared me for the heartbreaking situation I encountered; the conditions for families living in these informal camps were just horrendous. It's not somewhere that anyone should have to call a home, especially not a child. The over-crowded and unsanitary conditions need just one storm to set off a terrible chain reaction. The cold weather already makes children susceptible to respiratory infections like pneumonia.
In a country where young people make up a significant proportion of the available labour force, yet unemployment rates for 20 to 24yearolds have been estimated to be as much as five times greater than those for older adults, Building Young Futures works hard to support hard to reach people in places where there are few jobs or prospects for the bulging youth population. What's the alternative?
Surely no-one wants our most vulnerable children to suffer, even in harsh economic times. And they don't need to. Different choices are possible. We know because many other countries have done better. It is possible to reduce child poverty and deprivation even as we take steps to recover from the great recession.
AL-Hasakeh/Damascus, 23 October 2014 - While many of Syria's war-torn cities and governorates are grabbing the headlines, the humanitarian situation in the north-eastern governorate of Al-Hasakeh governorate is largely in the shadows. With a population of 1.5 million people - almost half of them children - much of the governorate has been cut off from humanitarian aid for almost two years...
New global data from Unicef shows that millions of children around the world suffer physical violence every day. Around 120million girls under the age of 20 (about one in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives; boys are also at risk, although there is no global estimate due to the lack of comparable data in most countries... I hope very much that the world leaders, starting to gather in the chambers of the UN as I write, will make a commitment over the next year to champion a target to end abuse, exploitation and violence against children.
For thousands of children in Syria, summer vacation is no longer about taking a break from their hectic school lives. On the contrary, with displacement and violence regularly interrupting normal classes, many children around the country used their summer break to visit school clubs and catch up on lost school days.
"We walked for more than 20 hours with no food or water," says Juan, an adolescent girl who arrived at Nawrouz refugee camp in north-east Syria three days ago, along with eight family members. Juan is from the Yazidi minority group, many of whom are fleeing to Syria from the mountains of Sinjar in Iraq.
Today, Usain Bolt will compete in the 100m relay for Jamaica in his first ever Commonwealth Games. As the fastest man in the world, he is one of Jamaica's most famous exports, alongside the country's glorious, sun kissed beaches that thousands travel to every year. But my trip to the small island in the Caribbean with UNICEF was to see a very different way of life.
During the course of my humanitarian work in Syria, I have listened to many children share their perspectives. The death of family members, whether siblings or a parent or other loved one is common. Being displaced from their homes, often more than once, and finding their friends and communities snatched away. Memories of repeated attacks from warring parties that flattened whole neighborhoods, fires that raged through the night stay with them.