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JACMEL, Haiti — One evening last November, Jui opened Google Translate on her iPad and began drafting her first-ever message to her father.
“Hello, Dad,” she typed in Creole, the words appearing in Spanish on the right side of the screen. “I’m the daughter you abandoned.”
The 9-year-old told the United Nations peacekeeper from Uruguay who left her when she was barely out of the hospital that she harbored no hatred but was only searching for the answer to a single question: What did we do for you to treat us this way?
Nine months later, she keeps checking Facebook Messenger for a response from her father, Hector Dilamar Silva Borges.
His absence has hovered over her young life. For three years, she and her mother, Phanie, waited for their child support case to move through Haiti’s courts. Then in December, more than two years after the UN confirmed Borges is Jui’s father through a DNA test, a judge issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering him to pay $ 3,590 per month, a landmark decision with the potential to impact families around the country with similar cases.
UN peacekeepers fathered dozens of children while they were stationed in Haiti between 2004 and 2017, often with women they were providing money and food to — behavior UN policy “strongly discouraged” because of the “inherently unequal power dynamics.” Initially deployed in response to a coup attempt and the ousting of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, their force grew following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. But none stayed long, and when their rotations ended, they abandoned their babies, leaving behind a generation of children born into a nation struggling to rebuild, with limited access to food, schooling, and healthcare.
Calls for the UN to dispatch new peacekeepers echoed across the world after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse threatened to send the country into turmoil — and before a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southern coast in August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying entire towns.
For some of the women in Haiti still seeking support from the peacekeepers who swept in a decade ago, the possibility of a new influx of them triggered resentment. All but one of their claims for child support from UN peacekeepers have stalled in Haiti’s courts. Lawyers representing the women said the UN and the peacekeepers’ home nations are withholding some of the documents needed to move forward, and that judges are reluctant to rule against an international institution or countries that are supplying Haiti with critical resources, including funding, training, and jobs that offer a path out of the country — or a handsome salary.
In response to questions for this story, a UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the organization has a zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, and said it engages with local communities to encourage individuals to come forward if they have claims, including through the recent distribution of 6,000 flyers on the issue in Port-au-Prince. The spokesperson said that the ruling in favor of Jui was “very important” and that the UN was ready to cooperate further with national authorities.
Uruguay’s office in charge of overseeing peacekeeper training and liaising with the UN, the Uruguayan National System in Support of Peace Operations, told BuzzFeed News that it has not received a notification about the ruling against Borges and that the country’s judicial system “does not permit in absentia convictions.”
The law firm representing Phanie and Jui, Port-au-Prince-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, initiated child support claims from UN peacekeepers on behalf of nine other families in 2017. It’s unclear how many such cases remain pending in Haiti’s courts.
“I had crossed my fingers to get this ruling because if there’s one, we will get more,” said Mario Joseph, the firm’s managing attorney. “It will open doors in other courts.”
Yet even that hope was limited. As of August, eight months after the ruling, Jui and Phanie have yet to receive a single dollar from Borges, who remains an active member of the Uruguayan navy and did not respond to a request for comment.
Since 1948, the signature blue helmets of UN peacekeepers have become common sights at the scenes of devastation and turmoil around the world. Those who don the organization’s uniform are typically members of their home nation’s military, which the UN reimburses with a fee for every person it enlists. Presenting themselves as an independent force that feeds the hungry and intervenes in genocides, peacekeepers developed credibility in most of the world as something of a moral compass for the global age. But evidence of abuse on several missions in recent years has tarnished their reputation, perhaps nowhere more than in Haiti, where peacekeepers were in charge of building shelters and distributing food after the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, killed more than a quarter-million people and flattened much the country.
Even as aftershocks continued to rumble, some peacekeepers began trading food for sex in the tent cities that sprang up to house the hundreds of thousands of displaced families and in the areas around the UN bases.
“I tried to point fingers as much as I could and sound the alarm,” said Lina AbiRafeh, a women’s rights activist who coordinated the UN gender-based violence response following the 2010 earthquake. She received reports of abuse and exploitation frequently and “acted on each report, through every channel available” but UN officials didn’t take them seriously or investigate them in a timely manner, she said.
Abuse and exploitation became common. Peacekeepers began “going to the beach, acting like tourists, drinking, chasing girls,” according to a study published last year by Stability: International Journal of Security and Development. Two of the study’s authors, Sabine Lee and Susan Bartels, oversaw a 2017 survey of approximately 2,500 Haitians. Of those, 265 said they had a child with a UN peacekeeper or knew of someone who did. Nearly half of the UN peacekeepers reported in the survey were from Uruguay and Brazil.
Of the 120 reports of sexual abuse or exploitation the UN says it has received in Haiti since 2007, it has opened 88 investigations and sent home 41 uniformed personnel, according to the organization’s database. Of those, 12 have spent an undisclosed amount of time in jail in their home countries, nine have been kicked out of their country’s military, and two have faced financial sanctions at home.
The problem of peacekeepers sexually abusing or exploiting local women is not unique to Haiti — there have been 1,143 allegations since 2007, across at least a dozen countries, according to the database. But Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, has endured multiple scandals, including a sex ring in which more than 130 peacekeepers from Sri Lanka exploited nine Haitian children, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. It wasn’t until 2015 that the UN began requiring peacekeepers’ home countries to certify that deployed military personnel had no prior allegations of human rights violations, according to the UN spokesperson.
And it’s not just the UN: In 2011, senior staff at Oxfam GB failed to act on reports of its aid workers sexually abusing Haitian girls as young as 12. Several American missionaries have been jailed for sexually abusing children in Haiti.
The private struggles of the families abandoned by UN peacekeepers take place against the larger struggles of a nation that has suffered a seemingly unending string of tragedies.
Rose Mina Joseph, then 16, met Julio Cesar Posse, a 35-year-old marine from Uruguay, at a beach party in the southwestern seaside town of Port-Salut a few months after the 2010 earthquake. Posse pressured Rose Mina into sex, she said.
“I didn’t have an understanding of what I was doing,” said Rose Mina during an interview at her home this month. Under Haitian law at the time, it was considered statutory rape.
Shortly after, Rose Mina realized she was pregnant, and within months of her son Anderson’s birth, Posse returned home. Rose Mina depended on relatives to feed her newborn. Once, Posse gave her about $ 100 via a Western Union–like service. It was, she said, the only time he sent help.
Posse was a member of the Uruguayan navy until 2018, navy spokesperson Alejandro Chucarro told BuzzFeed News. Carina de los Santos, legal adviser at the Uruguayan National System in Support of Peace Operations, said “severe sanctions restricting his freedom” were imposed on Posse, but that his withdrawal from the navy was unrelated to his paternity case in Haiti. She did not specify what the sanctions entailed. Posse did not respond to a request for comment.
Though the 2010 earthquake brought a range of international organizations to Haiti, their impact was often underwhelming, and at times damaging.
While Anderson was still breastfeeding, cholera, introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers via a sewage leak at one of their bases, became an epidemic, killing at least 10,000 people and making more than 800,000 ill. At the same time, international donations for reconstruction efforts began evaporating with no explanation: With the half a billion dollars the American Red Cross raised, it built only six homes, according to an investigation by ProPublica. A highly touted $ 300 million industrial park inaugurated by the Clintons and Sean Penn under-delivered, creating few jobs and drawing fewer tenants. Meanwhile, the Haitian government embezzled much of a $ 2 billion loan from Venezuela meant to be invested in education, health and social initiatives, and infrastructure, embroiling one administration after another in graft scandals.
In 2016, as Anderson prepared to enter kindergarten, Hurricane Matthew barrelled into Haiti, killing at least 1,000 people and destroying 30,000 houses along the southern coast — including his family’s. They were forced to move to a small hut along an unpaved road, a single room with cinder block walls and a corrugated tin roof.
In recent months, as Anderson finished fourth grade and the country navigated the aftermath of the president’s assassination, crime has risen sharply, as gangs have taken control of key transportation routes in and out of Port-au-Prince, forcing thousands of people to move elsewhere.
“Every day gets harder,” Rose Mina said in an interview this month, as she sat on the bed she and her son shared, wiping the sweat off his forehead as he napped beside her.
The only object linking him to his father — a photograph of Posse — lies tucked away in a suitcase in a corner of the room. She said she only takes it out when Anderson asks where his father is.
The newborns became toddlers, and the toddlers school children. Soon, they began asking questions.
Where is my father? Why don’t I look like the other kids?
Dominic Antonio Cortez’s tawny skin and the 2-inch-high nest of curls on his head stood out in stark contrast to the darker complexion and buzz cuts of the other boys in the neighborhood. At school, he said, classmates whispered about him behind his back and taunted him to his face, disparagingly calling him “Little Minustah,” after the name of the UN’s mission to Haiti: MINUSTAH.
“The teachers don’t like me,” he said. “Other children don’t want me in the school.”
The 9-year-old said he prefers to be at home, where he sleeps on a thin mattress he shares with his two siblings in the living room and often goes to bed with an empty stomach.
In a fit of anger, Dominic recently accused his mother, Becheline Appoliner, of preventing him from finding his father, and threatened to harm himself. The boy says he wants to be a UN peacekeeper when he grows up.
In 2011, Appoliner met Argentine peacekeeper Marcelo Cortez as she walked to a local market in Port-au-Prince, and he invited her out to Jet Set, a nightclub popular with foreigners, she said. Soon, he was spending time with her family and sleeping over in their home. When she told him she was pregnant, Appoliner remembers him being happy, but just two months later, when his rotation ended, he left Haiti and soon after, blocked her on Facebook. Cortez did not respond to a request for comment.
When Dominic was 3 months old, Appoliner said she went to one of the UN offices in Port-au-Prince, desperate for some financial help. They took down her information, but they did not follow up until Dominic was 7 years old, according to Appoliner.
An acquaintance living near her in 2016, aware that she was no longer able to put Dominic’s older brother through school, suggested she reach out to a certain lawyer who might be able to help.
Soon, Appoliner found herself sitting across from Mario Joseph in his office, in an unmarked building along one of the capital city’s narrow, winding streets. By then, Joseph, along with the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, had grown accustomed to fighting the UN: They had filed a class action lawsuit in a US federal court on behalf of victims of the cholera epidemic, a case they lost when the court upheld the UN’s immunity from damages.
Joseph, 58, has worked some of the country’s most emblematic human rights cases, representing victims of the Raboteau massacre and of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. He grew up in a house with no electricity or running water and believes many of the injustices committed in Haiti are a result of racism and imperialism, endemic not just among the outsiders who interfere in the country, but within the Haitian government as well.
He took Appoliner’s case and began putting together a file for Cortez. In August 2016, Joseph’s law firm sent legal notifications to MINUSTAH informing them that they planned to file child support suits and requesting information on the alleged fathers, including about any investigations related to paternity cases by the UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit and the results of DNA tests, some of which had been submitted to the organization as early as 2014. The response, said Joseph, was opaque and incomplete. They did not provide details on internal investigations into the claimants’ cases or certification that the peacekeepers’ immunity did not prevent these cases from moving forward in Haitian courts.
In December 2017, Joseph filed claims on behalf of 10 women in courts across Haiti.
“They say they’re promoting human rights, yet they’re violating ours,” Joseph said of the UN.
A UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the organization has provided “documentation and information to the mothers as well as to the national authorities of Haiti,” and that 31 Haitian women and 36 children are receiving assistance that “varies in accordance to their individual needs” and includes funds for the upcoming school year.
The foreign ministry, which is the entity that corresponds directly with the UN, has kept Joseph on the sidelines, he said, including holding meetings with the women without having their lawyers present. Claude Joseph, who initially took over as prime minister after Moïse’s assassination and is now serving as foreign minister, declined an interview request from BuzzFeed News.
The women’s cases have largely stalled in their respective courts. Mario Joseph thinks part of the problem is that judges are reluctant to rule against the UN or its member countries because many of them have received training from the UN or are hoping to get a job there one day.
During an interview, Bernard Saint-Vil, dean of the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, initially said the fear of reprisals by the UN “may also be a factor” in the delay of these cases but then backtracked, saying judges must apply the law. Sitting in his office a few blocks from the National Palace, which was partially destroyed during the 2010 earthquake and never rebuilt, Saint-Vil clarified that pressure for the cases to move forward needs to come from the foreign ministry.
After nearly four years, only one judge — in the case of Jui — has issued a favorable judgment for a woman filing a child support claim against a UN peacekeeper. But because it is nearly impossible to enforce the ruling in Uruguay, Joseph said that all he can do now is tell other UN member countries about the ruling in hopes they increase diplomatic pressure.
Some of the women try to track down their children’s fathers themselves. On Feb. 8, 2020, Appoliner wrote to Cortez’s son, Jorge, on Facebook Messenger: “I’m an 8-year-old child. I want to meet Marcelo Antonio Cortez, my father.”
The following day, Jorge wrote back: “What do I have to do with this? Find him and write [to] him.”
A few weeks later, Appoliner messaged him again. “Your father had a child with me, look at the photo,” and attached a photo of Dominic. The following month, Jorge responded: “I spoke to him and he says you’re lying.”
Appoliner holds on to whatever hope she can. In her purse, she carries an old, weathered business card belonging to Carla Pessanha Loque, a former senior victims’ rights officer at the UN, even though she can’t remember the last time Pessanha picked up her call. Still, “I feel like it’s a support,” she said.
By early August, she was behind on rent and on the verge of getting evicted.
Above the hills in Port-au-Prince, Jalousie looks vibrant.
The slum — nestled in the middle of Petionville, an upscale neighborhood where many diplomats live in villas hidden behind tall concrete walls — was painted by the government with pastel greens, purples, and pinks in 2013 as an attempt to improve the view for the wealthy surroundings. But behind the bright walls, little was done to improve sanitation, introduce running water, or provide more electricity for residents.
In a small, blue hut on one of Jalousie’s steeply sloping streets, Omése Théodore lives with her three children, each fathered by a different UN peacekeeper, she said.
In 2009, Théodore was studying communications in college and taking care of her first child, a son she says is from a Cameroonian peacekeeper who had recently left the country. When the earthquake hit, she lost her home and was forced to sleep on the street for a month.
With unemployment rates hovering above 50% and a toddler to raise, Théodore began “looking for someone else to help me with my child” with money for food and school. She found a Rwandan peacekeeper who offered her money “and a little something for the kid.” When he found out she was pregnant with his child, shortly after, he urged her to get an abortion, which is illegal in Haiti. A few months later and six months into her pregnancy, his rotation ended and he went home, said Théodore.
The following year, Théodore met another peacekeeper, from Benin. She became pregnant, he ordered her to abort, and she refused. This time, he threatened to shoot her, she said.
Théodore went to the UN base in Port-au-Prince to ask for money for her children. The organization must provide “assistance and support addressing the medical, legal, psychological and social consequences directly arising from sexual exploitation and abuse” by UN personnel, according to a document from the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate. But Théodore and three other women told BuzzFeed News that they have only gotten limited and intermittent monetary support, including a one-time $ 1,500 housing stipend and about $ 660 for school every year.
Théodore said the organization only did DNA tests on two of her three sons, and that it has only released the results for one of those two. Through an Italy-based nonprofit, the UN sends money to help pay for her children’s food and schooling, but she said she hasn’t gotten any support since March. The UN told BuzzFeed News that it cannot address individual cases because of confidentiality issues.
In recent years, the UN began to take steps to address the history of sexual exploitation among its ranks.
In 2019, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti organized a program in several cities in the country to raise awareness about sexual abuse perpetrated by its staff. Called “Theatre of the Oppressed,” it encouraged spectators to go onstage to offer solutions to the problem.
In 2020 — over a decade after Haitian women began reporting peacekeepers’ abuse — the UN approved a trust fund for survivors of sexual exploitation by its staff in Haiti. As of June, Uruguay and Brazil, the two countries with the most reports of sexual exploitation in Haiti, had not contributed any money.
The trust fund “is so poorly funded that it is an embarrassment to the UN,” said Paula Donovan, codirector of Code Blue Campaign, an organization that advocates for survivors of sexual abuse by UN personnel. She added that while the UN has encouraged troop-contributing countries to enforce child support legislation, it has stopped short of setting any requirements.
“It’s simply no longer standing in the way when women make paternity claims,” said Donovan.
The UN spokesperson said the organization calls “on those who fathered these children in Haiti to assume their individual parental responsibility toward them,” and that it has provided “several Haitian mothers with DNA test results.” The spokesperson added that the UN supports brokering agreements between the parents, though these are “not always possible as they depend on the cooperation of the father.”
Chucarro, the Uruguayan navy spokesperson, said the country adopted “a series of measures to implement the UN’s policy of zero tolerance on sexual abuse and exploitation” in 2003, and referred BuzzFeed News to the Uruguayan foreign ministry for answers to specific questions. The Uruguayan foreign ministry did not respond to a request for information.
During a recent afternoon, Théodore’s sons gathered in their living room, which was just big enough for two chairs, a dresser, and a small fridge. Jean Christ, 4, sat on his mother’s lap. Jacques Andre, who had just lost his third tooth, cheekily sang a song he heard on the radio. Eleven-year-old Carl Michel Armand held a sketchbook depicting the universe of “Macsi Puissant,” the superhero family he had created, giving each member a different power: one could make trees, another could put together robots, and a third one could muster enough electricity to power his house.
Whenever they were hungry, the three boys asked Théodore to search for their fathers.
The hip-height fridge was empty except for four tin containers filled with water.
The videos Jui posts on TikTok usually show her singing or dancing in front of a mural painted by her mother, Phanie. They come from a family of artists and art lovers. Paintings by some of Haiti’s most famous oil masters lie stacked against the walls of their home. Édith Piaf and jazz often plays in the background. Jui is learning to play the piano.
But she doesn’t fantasize about becoming an artist when she grows up. Recently, Jui decided that she wants to be a nurse.
She believes that when he’s older, Borges, her father, will one day fall ill, and she wants to be the one to bring him back to health. She dreams of the moment when she’s working a shift at the hospital, and she sees her dad’s name on the list of patients. She has it all planned: When that happens, she’ll ask to be his nurse, go out to buy him the medicine he needs, and then watch him feel ashamed that he did not help her.
For now, the A-student studies extra hard in her science class, making sure to memorize which medicinal herbs treat what disease and how best to administer them. She takes long walks with her uncle at a nearby garden, where he teaches her about which leaves can be used to brew healing teas.
Jui still possesses the one thing she has from Borges: the $ 120 he gave Phanie before he left a decade ago, tucked underneath her pillowcase. ●
Politicians in Sweden reacted strongly to a shooting incident in Flemingsberg, south of Stockholm, where two small children were injured.
“The fact that the violence takes place in an environment where innocent children live shows total indifference and ruthlessness,” Minister of the Interior Mikael Damberg noted in a written comment to TT.
Nine people have been arrested after two children were injured due to gunfire in Flemingsberg south of Stockholm on Saturday night. According to Swedish media, the children are five and six years old and were hit in the legs.
“I want to express my horror and anger over the violence that has affected two children in Flemingsberg,” Damberg said.
“Difficult to put into words”
Johan Forsell of the Moderates believes that the incident has crossed a line.
“This is terrible. It is almost difficult to put into words because this really stands out,” he told TT.
Forsell wants more action to prevent such incidents from happening again. Among other things, he wants Sweden to do as Denmark did and double the punishment if a perpetrator who has been convicted committed the crime in a gang-related context.
“What has been lacking in the debate in recent years is society’s right to be able to protect itself against very dangerous people,” he said.
In a post on Facebook, the Liberals’ party leader Nyamko Sabuni called for more police officers, abolishing penalty rebates, and providing better tools for the police.
Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch also commented on the incident via Twitter.
“This evil spares no means to cross new boundaries. It is simply sad that Sweden has ended up here, but we must acknowledge what reality looks like,” she said.
Spokeswoman for the Green Party, Märta Stenevi, said she was appalled and angry about what happened.
“The fact that violence penetrates environments where young children live is serious and completely unacceptable. Violence, weapons, and gangs have no place in our society,” she noted on Twitter.
The leader of the Left Party, Nooshi Dadgostar, also expresses his sympathy to those affected.
“Two small children who were out playing were hit by the shots. It shows a disgusting ruthlessness that frightens families. My thoughts go to the children and their loved ones,” she wrote in a Twitter message.
Vaccine: Costello claims UK doesn’t have enough jabs for children
And Professor Anthony Costello has also issued a warning about the risk so-called long Covid poses to youngsters. The NHS is preparing to roll out the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions and those living with vulnerable adults.
Youngsters are expected to be offered the Pfizer jab, which was approved for use in children in that age group by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency last month following a “rigorous review”.
The Moderna vaccine is not currently recommended for use in children – but the EU is likely to decide on whether to grant approval next week.
AstraZeneca’s jab, which is widely used in the UK, is not currently recommended for use on children under the age of 18.
Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid, and AstraZeneca’s jab (Image: GETTY)
Professor Anthony Costello during Friday’s briefing (Image: Independent SAGE)
Speaking during Friday’s briefing by Independent SAGE, Prof Costello, the former Professor of International Child Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University College London, said: “The child vaccination story is interesting.
“Because although they’re delaying and saying they’re not sure and it’s not really that big a problem, I actually think the real reason is that they don’t have adequate supplies at Pfizer and Moderna.
“And I think we have a supply issue at the moment which is why they’re not giving approval for younger children.”
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Sajid Javid speaking in the Commons on Monday (Image: GETTY)
AstraZeneca vaccine: Dr Green shares what’s in Oxford jab
Speaking at a time of rising concern about the potential impact of the so-called Beta variant which scientists fear may be immune to existing vaccines, Prof Costello also voiced his concerns at any potential herd immunity approach which the Government might adopt which would involve allowing the disease to “rip through the population”.
Prof Costello, who was also director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the World Health Organisation between 2015 and 2018, warned: “If you look at long Covid, we know that of children in the secondary school age group, about 14 percent, or about one in eight almost, of children will have long Covid symptoms.
“We don’t know what the long term effects are – long Covid is really nasty, you get all kinds of symptoms, it can go for on a long period.”
Those under the age of 18 are not currently being vaccinated in the UK (Image: GETTY)
AstraZeneca’s jab was developed in conjunction with Oxford University (Image: GETTY)
Speaking a day before it was confirmed Health Secretary Sajid Javid had been tested positive despite having been fully inoculated, Prof Costello added: “Older people who have been double vaccinated, get breakthrough infections.
“I’m one case in point – I got Covid three weeks ago I still have some symptoms, and it was a breakthrough, even though I was double vaccinated.
“And finally, if you have everybody getting an infection, the immunity you get from the infection is about half as good as you get from vaccination.
Covid vaccinations in the UK as of Wednesday (Image: Express)
“So, the utilitarian principle would be keep community infections under control, get all people vaccinated, including children down to 12 and then you can you get a much better result in the utilitarian sense.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman told Express.co.uk: “The government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI and no decisions have been made by ministers on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered COVID-19 vaccines.”
The independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people aged 12 and over as it meets their robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.
The Government is understood to be confident it has sufficient supplies of vaccinations – but AstraZeneca’s jab, which is widely used in the UK, is not currently recommended for use on children under the age of 18.
Vaccinations compared (Image: Express)
Speaking yesterday, Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the scientists behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine insisted the benefits of vaccinating children were “much lower and poorer” than inoculating adults.
She added: “With still a limited number of doses available to vaccinate the world, we should be use those doses for healthcare workers and for older individuals in countries that don’t yet have a vaccine.”
Express.co.uk understands the UK has made a “risk-benefit” decision on protecting children rather than a calculation taking into account excess supplies which could be shipped abroad for use in adults.
The UK has administered 80 million vaccine doses so far, with more than 87 percent of the population having received at least one jab.
If vaccination rates among adults and kids 12 and older keep lagging amid increased spread of the Delta variant, the youngest members of the population will be most affected, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
“Transmission will continue to accelerate … and the ones who will also pay the price, in addition to the unvaccinated adolescents, are the little kids who depend on the adults and adolescents to get vaccinated in order to slow or halt transmission,” he said.
In 46 states, the rates of new cases this past week are at least 10% higher than the rates of new cases the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In Los Angeles County, the country’s most populous, there has been a 500% increase in cases over the past month, according to the county’s latest health data.
As cases increase, only 48.1% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And though many may brush off the risk of low vaccination rates to children, citing their low Covid-19 mortality rates, Hotez said they are still at risk for serious complications.
In Mississippi, seven children are in intensive care with Covid-19, and two are on ventilators, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweeted Tuesday evening.
Many more adolescents could become hospitalized, Hotez said, adding up to 30% of children infected will develop long-haul ovid.
Scientists are now learning about neurological consequences to long-haul covid, Hotez added. Some studies have shown impacts on the brain of people who have been infected with the virus. One study in April found 34% of Covid-19 survivors received a diagnosis for a neurological or psychological condition within six months of their infection.
“What you’re doing is your condemning a whole generation of adolescents to neurologic injury totally unnecessarily,” Hotez said.“It’s just absolutely heartbreaking and beyond frustrating for vaccine scientists like myself to see this happen.”
Debate over vaccine mandates
With experts stressing the importance in vaccinating a majority of Americans against the virus, some officials are debating whether to mandate vaccinations at the local level.
Some schools and employers have already implemented measures requiring students and employees to be vaccinated before returning.
Last month, Morgan Stanley announced unvaccinated employees, guests and clients would be banned from its New York headquarters. In April, Houston Methodist, a network of eight hospitals, said it would require all of its employees to get vaccinated. Of the 26,000 employees, 153 resigned or were fired as a result of refusing the vaccine.
That same month, the American College Health Association issued a policy statement recommending Covid-19 vaccination requirements for all on-campus college and university students for the upcoming fall semester, where state law and resources allow.
But many states are moving to block such requirements.
A CNN analysis found that at least seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah — have enacted legislation this year that would restrict public schools from requiring either coronavirus vaccinations or documentation of vaccination status.
Such legislation can hurt the nation’s 48 million Americans under the age of 12, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only available in the US to people 12 and older. Vaccine trials are currently underway for children 6 months through 11 years old.
“If we start with a lens on the children and wanting children to get back to school, which is what we all say is the priority, then we have to get more serious about employers and schools and universities stepping up and saying ‘it’s great if you don’t want to be vaccinated. But if you don’t, you really can’t have access to places that will put you in contact with folks who can’t get vaccinated,'” Sebelius said.
One thing the federal government can do to support vaccine mandates is expedite the full authorization of the available vaccines, she said.
“Getting full approval — getting out of the emergency use authorization and into full approval — is something that will clear up any legal questions that private employers may have,” Sebelius said.
What surges could mean for the school year
Most officials and health experts have stressed the importance of students being able to safely return to school in the new academic year, but vaccine hesitancy could impact how districts move forward.
Only a quarter of Americans age 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data published Tuesday by the CDC, making them the age group with the lowest rate of vaccination.
California’s K-12 schools were directed Monday to turn away students from campuses for refusing to wear face coverings in class, but the rules were revised just hours later to give schools more leeway in implementing protocol.
Despite the initial guidance stating, “Schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under [California Department of Public Health] guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school,” spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, Alex Stack, insists the intent was not to turn away students.
“The way [the guidance] was written didn’t accurately reflect the intent, so it was rewritten,” Stack told CNN, acknowledging the statement came across as “banning kids.” “It’s important to get this right so parents and students know what to expect going in to school year.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s guidance could change as the school year gets closer, but for now families should assume masks will still be worn in schools come September.
“We’ve been constantly working with the CDC, but we also in this case have been very careful given everything the city has been through … for now, we’re sticking with the idea that, you know, wearing the masks is the smart thing to do in schools,” De Blasio said.
CNN’s Alexandra Meeks, Lauren Mascarenhas, Deidre McPhillips, Holly Yan, Laura Ly, Cheri Mossburg and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.
An expert, looking at the royal rift, has given his advice to people in similar familial situations. Neil Wilkie is a relationship expert, psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of online couples therapy, The Relationship Paradigm.
He spoke to Express.co.uk about family rifts after the reported fallout within the Royal Family.
Rumours of a rift had been reported for months before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made shock allegations that “several conversations” took place among unnamed members of the family, concerning their son Archie’s skin tone.
The Duchess said in the interview: “In those months, when I was pregnant, all around this same time, we had in tandem the conversation of he won’t be given security, he won’t be given a title … and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin will be when he’s born.
“That was relayed to me from Harry, that was from conversations that family had with him. It was really hard to see those as compartmentalized conversations.”
A Clarence House spokesperson responded to these claims and said: “As we’ll all remember in January 2020 when the Duke and Duchess announced that they were going to move away from the working royal family, the Duke said that they would work towards becoming financially independent.
“The Prince of Wales allocated a substantial sum to support them with this transition. That funding ceased in the summer of last year, and the couple is now financially independent.”
Neil Wilkie warned rifts within the family can have impacts on children, which could last generations.
He told Express.co.uk: “Family rifts can fester and last for generations.
“It is really important that parents deal with these to avoid their children inheriting unhelpful and unnecessary bad feelings or dislocations from their wider family.”
The expert claimed, “there are two really important issues to address.”
He advised parenting in family disputes “ensure (their) children feel loved and secure.”
He said: “A rift can resonate and make children feel insecure and unloved.
“If the rift is causing you to feel angry, upset or resentful these negative emotions will spill over and pollute the life of your children.
“If your children were very fond of the relatives concerned, they may blame you or feel that, in some way, they were to blame. You must ensure that they know that they are loved by you and that you are doing your best to resolve the problems.
“Children often believe that their relationships will have to be like their parents. So, if it is loving and harmonious, they are very fortunate and will carry that into their futures.
“If it is unhappy and argumentative, they will carry that shadow with them because ‘that is how relationships are’ unless they can find a better model they can apply in their lives.”
He warns children will pick up on much more than their parents may realise.
“Couples may believe that they can keep their disagreements hidden and their frustrations swept under the carpet,” he said.
“Children will pick up, at least subconsciously, if the relationships their parents are having do not feel right.
“Children need to see that differences are part of life and that they can be dealt with amicably.
“They also need to experience that life can be a bumpy ride and that their parents can handle this as a team.”
He said: “It’s even harder in the case of celebrities or the Royal Family because they are in the glare of publicity and disagreements make juicy TV or column inches.
“Expressing your family angst in front of millions of viewers or readers can only create a hardening of positions and makes resolution much harder when one side would have to publicly proclaim that they were wrong.”
Patrick Vallance warns coronavirus deaths will still rise
Hospitals across the country have been flooded with babies with a potentially-deadly respiratory virus. Wellington has recorded 46 children hospitalised with respiratory illnesses including respiratory syncytial virus – also known as RSV.
RSV is a common respiratory illness and in adults only produces very mild symptoms but for young children, it can make them extremely ill or even be fatal.
Doctors have warned New Zealand’s outbreak is likely due to children not developing immunity to other viruses suppressed by Covid lockdowns.
Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker said: “What we’re seeing now is we’ve accumulated a whole lot of susceptible children that have missed out on exposure – so now they’re seeing it for the first time.”
Lockdowns in New Zealand last winter led to a 99.9 percent reduction in flu cases and a 98 percent reduction in RSV.
New Zealand panic as children hospitalised as lockdowns spark ‘immunity debt’ crisis (Image: WIKICC•GETTY)
New Zealand seeing rise of children hospitalised (Image: Getty)
But over the past five weeks, New Zealand has reported nearly 1,000 RSV cases, according to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
Middlemore hospital in Auckland has converted a playroom into a clinical space with 11 special care baby cots.
Heath boards across Auckland and Canterbury have also postponed surgeries to divert resources into children’s wards.
According to the Guardian, some hospitals have asked children under 12 not to visit in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
Coronavirus cases across the world (Image: Express)
Professor Baker continued: “If you remove that exposure for a period then you will have a bigger cohort of unexposed children, and therefore – as you can see we have happening at the moment – it can sustain a much bigger outbreak when they are eventually exposed to the virus.”
New Zealand’s director-general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said he was “certainly concerned about the sharp surge in RSV cases”.
He said: “We had very little RSV last year.
“There’s some speculation that [the current outbreak] may be partly exacerbated by the fact we didn’t have any last year and so there is a bigger pool of children who are susceptible to it.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden (Image: Getty)
Back in May, a collective of French doctors wrote a study of immunity debt and said: “This positive collateral effect in the short term is welcome, as it prevents additional overload of the healthcare system.
“The lack of immune stimulation… induced an ‘immunity debt’ which could have negative consequences when the pandemic is under control and [public health intervientions] are lifted.
“The longer these periods of ‘viral or bacterial low-exposure’ are, the greater the likelihood of future epidemics.”
Australia has also experienced a surge, with hospitals in Victoria being overcrowded by unusually high rates of RSV.
New Zealand has recorded only 26 Covid-related deaths (Image: Getty)
New Zealand has managed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
To date, there have been 2,408 confirmed cases of the virus with just 26 deaths.
As of 25 June 2021, a total of 1,090,651 vaccine doses have been administered.
When Sky: Children of the Light (or just ‘Sky’ in-game) launched back in 2019 on iOS, it was met with well-deserved critical acclaim. Some were dismayed that the follow-up to the iconic adventure title Journey would be shackled to the mobile world, but after laying eyes on the gorgeous visuals, simplistic gameplay, and inspired use of social interaction, there was but one question forming on the lips of players worldwide: “hang on… this is a mobile game?!”
Despite this, there was no doubt a good chunk of gamers (this writer included) that wished the game would eventually launch on console, if only to have better control of the protagonist without fear of their hands cramping up. Well, two years have passed, and Sky is finally available on the Nintendo Switch, retaining everything that made the mobile version so great whilst adding in fully button-mapped controls (and yes, we know mobile devices support controllers… just go with it).
Explaining the plot of Sky feels rather superfluous, given that you can effectively play however you like, but we’ll give it the old college try: taking place within a beautiful kingdom, you’re tasked with locating spirits within each of the game’s distinct locations. Finding and interacting with the spirits grants you new items like hairstyles, capes, and masks, in exchange for in-game currency. In addition to the spirits, you also encounter the titular ‘children of light’, who grant you upgrades to your flight ability as you move through the game.
Ultimately, the aim of the game is to explore the environment so you can obtain items and abilities that allow you to explore more of the environment. This might sound a bit pointless to some, but as with thatgamecompany’s previous titles, Sky’s appeal lies in its simplicity; gliding through the clouds, sliding down an icy slope, or just sitting around a campfire with other individuals.
The latter forms a big part of the experience. Social interaction is almost mandatory to make the most out of the game, but the good news is that it’s handled in a way that feels completely nonintrusive, and it incorporates cross-play with mobile users. You’ll see other players wandering about as you go through the game, some of which may be heading to the same destination as yourself, and others who could be going off and doing their own thing. Each player can be approached and greeted, and you’re given the option to befriend the player and give them a nickname of your choosing.
We met Bob fairly early on. Bob was new to the game, given that we’d met them in the initial hub world, and they were dressed up in the default outfit. After a bit of chirping back and forth, we took each other’s hand and set off into the world. Now, to be clear, we’ve no idea where Bob is based, how old they are, or what their real name might be. Sky wisely neglects to provide any of this information, instead focusing on the player interaction, and only the player interaction. We journeyed far and wide together, calling out whenever we lost sight of each other, and chirping away in happiness whenever we found our goal.
It’s a lovely experience to say the least, but of course eventually we had to part ways with Bob. In a weird way, we felt a slight twinge of grief at their departure. Sure, we could meet someone else and call them Bob, but it just wasn’t the same; it wasn’t our Bob. Much like Journey before it, Sky’s social aspect is deceptively deep, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop a bond with your in-game acquaintances.
In addition to the exploration and social aspects of the game, there are plenty of options available to customise your character. These items are available in the hub world, and you can customise everything right down to the instrument your character will carry throughout the game. We opted for a charming little guitar, and what’s great is you can break out the instrument at any point during the game, with every single button on the Switch’s controller corresponding to a different musical note. You can create your own tunes, or play along to a selection of sheet music.
Of course, with such simplistic gameplay and a distinct lack of any challenge, you’d hope the game would at least look impressive. Well, it’s no overstatement that this is one of the best looking games on Switch. The lighting is absolutely wonderful, and combined with subtle yet effective lens flare effects each of the game’s worlds look incredibly well realised, if not particularly realistic. There’s also an option to alter the in-game display, so you can either lock the game at 30FPS and enjoy a higher resolution, or reduce this down for a smoother 60FPS experience. Can we also just reiterate that this game is free. Absurd!
In addition to the launch on Switch, there’s also an option to download the ‘Starter Pack’. This comes with two new capes, a vessel flute, a new hairstyle, and 75 candles (the in-game currency); now, with the pack coming in at £28.99 for the UK market, do we think it’s worth it? Well, no, not particularly; the game never forces you to purchase extra currency, and you can quite happily breeze through the experience having never bought a single additional item, but it’s there if you wish to receive a little boost to get you going.
The game also acts as a live service, with new seasons introduced periodically to add new content for players. The upcoming season introduces the game’s first cross-over event with the French children’s character Le Petit Prince, with an entirely new world to coincide with the collaboration. The only concern we have with the live service format is whether the simplistic gameplay has the staying power required to keep players engaged for weeks, perhaps months, on end.
We love free stuff, and Sky: Children of the Light is perhaps the best experience you can get for free on the Switch to date. The visuals are simply stunning, whether you’re playing in handheld mode or on the big screen, and the variety of the game’s different worlds provides more than enough incentive to explore. The social aspect is solid, and the game’s unique ability to foster bonds with complete strangers is frankly a marvel. The only real downside is that the gameplay is so simplistic in nature, so we’re not certain it will keep players around for long to experience any future updates. If it does grab your attention, however, then a magical experience awaits.
Who could forget Simon and the gang being basically cursed by Nanny McPhee so they wouldn’t be able to move and get out of bed and being made to stir pots really quickly in the kitchen.
It was kind of crazy if you think about it, so let’s not, and just catch up with what the child actors who starred in the film look like now.
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Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Simon
Thomas, now 31, is one of the most recognisable child actors on British TV.
He has had quite the career in the industry and worked with some big names.
Thomas appeared as Colin Firth’s eldest son in Nanny McPhee.
He also worked alongside Firth when he starred as Liam Neeson’s son in Love Actually as Sam.
Thomas went on to voice Ferb in Disney Channel’s animated series Phineas and Ferb and many will recognise him from Game of Thrones where he played Jojen Reed. He was recently in the Maze Runner.
Unsurprisingly, he’s gone on to do loads of film and television work, even returning in a 15 minute Love Actually sequel released as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day.
His most recent roles were as John Tracy in Thunderbirds Are Go, and Benny Watts in the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.
Raphael Coleman – Eric
Raphael who played Eric died on Feburary 7, 2020 at the age of 25.
His step-dad Carsten Jensen said on Facebook that the actor had collapsed despite have no known health problems.
His mum said: “Raphael’s mum said “he died doing what he loved” and added she wants to “celebrate all he achieved in his short life and cherish his legacy”.
Raphael’s cast mates paid tribute to him, including Eliza Bennett who said: “I was so heartbroken to hear about Raphael (now James Iggy).
“After we worked on Nanny McPhee, he dedicated his life to protecting wildlife and fighting climate change.”
Before his passing, and post his success with the film, the actor step away from set life and went on to become a big part of Extinction Rebellion and an activist for climate change.
Jennifer Rae Daykin – Liliana
Jennifer hasn’t been in the spotlight much since being a child star.
The 28-year-old was cast in The Catherine Tate Show where she played Chloe during 2006, and also appeared in short film Harry as Clara.
The former actress enrolled at Loughborough University and graduated in 2016.
She is now often seen posting on her Instagram page where she lives a very normal and relaxed life.
Jennifer particularly loves hanging out with her dog.
It is unknown what she does for a living now.
Holly Gibbs – Christianna
From one popular children’s watch to another, Holly went on to join the cast of Tracy Beaker.
The new arrival at the Dumping Ground, Milly, appears mute and all the other kids decide she is a bit creepy.
The 23-year-old also starred in Teensville on BBC about the Jewish Bar Mitzvah celebration.
The actress, who is the daughter of actress Claire Toeman, went to study at prestigious art school Central St Martins in London.
She initially studied for an Art Foundation before painting her way through an undergraduate Fine Art degree.
She is quite the fashionista, often posing on her Instagram and showing off her latest look.
Samuel Honywood – Sebastian
Sebastian was played by Sam Honywood, the twin brother to Christianna in the film.
But, the child star has certainly grown up since
Club night pics showing Sam out in Oxford at places such as Atik, and judging by the majority of people commenting on his Facebook photos listing Oxford Brookes as their university, we’re going to take an educated guess this is where Sam studied too.
After graduating, it appears Sam took some time out to go travelling and find himself.
He explored Thailand wearing the requisite Harem pants.
It would be weird if one of the Nanny McPhee children didn’t go on to chance their arm at being a DJ – Sam uses his surname, “Honywood” as his artist name.
Eliza Bennett – Tora
After appearing as Tora, Eliza Bennett has gone on to appear in sitcom “Plebs” alongside Tom Rosenthal of Friday Night Dinner fame.
The 29-year-old went onto star in The Midnight Beast, and her most notable roles have been those of Meggie Folchart in the film Inkheart.
The actress also stared as Susan in From Time to Time, Holly Manson in the West End musical Loserville, and Jules Thomas in the MTV black comedy series Sweet/Vicious.
Her most recent roles were in This Is Us, and The Conners.