The other Jamaica

What does the word "Jamaica" conjure up in you mind? Long, glittery beaches? Azure-colored water? Fancy resorts? Those are some of the images I would have thought of until recently. But, as I've learned, they're only part of Jamaica's very complicated reality.

UNICEF/ HQ08-0267/Susan Markisz

You see, for years now, Jamaica"that small vacation paradise about the size of Connecticut"has had one of the highest murder rates on the planet. In fact, it's often referred to as "the murder capital of the world." In 2007, more than 1,500 people, out of a population of only 2.7 million, were murdered. That equals more than four people a day, and includes an estimated 100 children. This year over 700 persons have already been killed.

Education is a magic wand

Have you noticed from our recent efforts in China and Myanmar that UNICEF goes to extreme lengths to make sure children always have access to education, even in emergency situations?

UNICEF/HQ07-1110/Shehzad Noorani

Education is like a magic wand for children"it can provide them with a secure, happy and safe place to spend time (ping!); it can turn a scary future into one filled with possibility (swoosh!); it can even make a child healthier (tadaaa!).

Yes, education enables children to lead healthier lives, and to make improved choices for themselves and their future families. A recent study actually shows that better education leads to longer life expectancy. It is, as much as anything, a child survival issue. And achieving universal primary education by 2015 is one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

World Day Against Child Labor

For a lot of kids around the world, a job isn't a teenage rite of passage or the means to get some extra spending cash. It's grueling, full-time work done to help their families buy basic necessities like food and shelter. And in the poorest countries, kids as young as five toil in some of the toughest and most dangerous forms of labor out there"mining, construction and mechanical work.

© UNICEF/ HQ97-0097/Donna DeCesare
Four-year-old Norma and her six-year-old cousin, Tonio, work 12 hours a day filling bags with charcoal to help their family in El Salvador. The two cousins are not enrolled in school and suffer from respiratory ailments.

NewsNet: State of Africa's Children

UNICEF's first ever comprehensive report assessing the status of Africa's children cited major challenges and some significant gains in the effort to cut that continent's stubbornly high child mortality rates. The State of Africa's Children 2008: Child Survival, released late last month, noted that among the nearly 10 million children who die each year before they reach age five, half of those deaths occur in Africa.

Back to school despite all obstacles in Myanmar

© UNICEF/HQ08-0563/Win Naing
While the school year is ending here in the U.S., in Myanmar the new school session is, despite all obstacles, getting under way. It's only been a month since the violent hurricane there left as many as 135,000 people dead or missing. And more than 4,000 basic education schools"affecting approximately 1.1 million children"were either damaged or totally destroyed. But UNICEF believes it's essential to help children get back to school, and we're putting tremendous effort into seeing it happen. As Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar, recently said, "In any disaster affecting entire communities, the opening of local schools is an important step in the recovery process. Children rely on their daily routines for a sense of security, including the routine of attending school."
© UNICEF/HQ08-0559/Win Naing
The extent of the damage means it's no easy task. In the Irrawaddy area, school will not open for another month while repairs are made, with help from 17,248 roofing sheets provided by UNICEF. But in Yangon, 98 primary schools have already been repaired using 7,750 roofing sheets and nails from UNICEF. This has enabled over 31,000 children to go back to school this week.

UNICEF welcomes cluster bomb ban

For years, the world has known about the devastating effects of cluster munitions on civilians"and particularly children. The little "bomblets" that don't explode on impacts are deadly remnants of war, waiting for children to step on them or pick them up"and then lose a limb or a life.
UNICEF/ HQ06-1172/Dina Debbas
LEBANON: A boy stands near an unexploded cluster bomb, marked off by two bricks, in the southern village of Yohmor.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Miller

Today is Wentworth Miller's birthday. Fans of the Prison Break star around the world have been making gifts in his honor to support UNICEF's lifesaving work for kids.

The Wentworth Miller Fans for Charity site enables "anyone who wishes to make a donation to this cause in lieu of a birthday gift to Wentworth" to do so through June 30.