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Ten Pakistani children to attend Young People's Forum in Thailand


Islamabad, 27 April 2007 – From 27 April to 4 May, a select group of children from earthquake-affected areas in Pakistan are meeting children from Southern Thailand and Indonesia at the first ever regional forum on natural disasters in Thailand’s capital Bangkok.  During the forum, supported by UNICEF, the young people will share experiences and examine ways in which life skills and other key approaches can be used to strengthen their capacity to cope with stressful situations. Pakistan’s ten participants - all between the ages of 10 and 18 – come from six earthquake-affected districts of the North West Frontier Province and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

“I know that the children we will be meeting in Bangkok were affected by the tsunami and have gone through a big trauma”, says Kiran, a grade-five student from Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “We also suffered a lot in Pakistan, my home was destroyed due to the earthquake and we are still living in a camp in Muzaffarabad. “I am still afraid of another earthquake, but there are special skills I have learnt and I can share with other children. I know that the most important is to stay calm and not panic.”

Prior to departing for Bangkok, the young people had the opportunity to meet with UNICEF earthquake team members, in Islamabad. “Following such devastation, it is essential that children from vulnerable communities have the possibility to effectively prepare themselves and exchange skills with peers from other countries with similar experiences”, said Terje Thodesen, Head of UNICEF Earthquake Support Operation.
 “The forum will provide an opportunity for young participants from the three disaster-affected countries to discuss how they can improve the quality of their lives by developing life skills such as goal setting, decision making, communications skills and coping mechanisms and by bringing these skills back to peers in their communities”, says Violet Speek-Warnery, Head of UNICEF Child Protection Earthquake Support Operation.

The forum will involve young people who have been selected from established existing youth programmes in each of the three countries.  Each group has conducted a series of in-country consultations with other young people to learn about their views of their peers regarding the challenges they face and the various ways in which they deal with them.

“During these sessions, we discussed problems such as the lack of clean water, difficulty to continue education as many school buildings were destroyed, teachers not concentrating on properly on educating children as they are focused on their personal problems”, explains Wali Zaib, 14 years old, from Battagram.

Upon their return in Pakistan, the young people will bring their messages back to district government officials for prioritizing children in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the earthquake affected areas. The seven-day forum is organised by UNICEF, the United-Nations Agency for International Development (USAID) and local NGOs from each of the participating countries. The Thailand Ministry of Public Health will serve as a co-host of this event.



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