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Children Brutalized by Islamic State (IS) will need Urgent Help, say Experts

As stated by the SITE counter terrorism website, these children, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek

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A screenshot from an Islamic State propaganda video that purports to show young boys executing Kurdish fighters. Image source: VOA
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August 27, 2016: Islamic State extremists almost as a badge of honour, posted this chilling image of five children staring into the camera with guns in their upraised arms, about to execute, the other five grown men dressed in orange jumpsuits kneel in front of them.

This image was released on Friday, and featured in an IS video from Ragga, Syria. As stated by the SITE counter-terrorism website, the young boys, in this image, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek.

With a profound level of psychological warfare, IS, a deeply disturbing sign of the extremist group’s, has increasingly featured children in its constant barrage of propaganda.

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Though the German magazine Der Spiegel quoted saying about 1,500 boys were serving the militant group in Iraq and Syria, but the exact number of children who have been put through the Islamic State’s child soldier boot camp is unknown.

One of the experts VOA talked with suspects there are that many in Iraq alone.

As the Iraqi Security Forces, with Kurdish troops and U.S.-led coalition support, converge on the IS stronghold of Mosul, there are growing concerns about what will happen to the children who have been forced to live under IS.

“There is no way we are prepared to manage the scale of what we see in front of us,” John Horgan, a professor at Georgia State University and an expert on terrorism and political violence, told VOA. “We are looking at a level of [child] mobilization that is unprecedented and increasing.”

Image source : VOA
Islamic State supporters. Image source : VOA

Snipers and suicide bombers

According to Farah Dakhlallah, UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa spokeswoman, child recruitment has increased across the Middle East, and the roles that children are recruited into are changing.

“In previous years, children were in support roles,” Dakhlallah told VOA by phone from Jordan. “But in the past two years, they are taking on much more active roles, carrying weapons, manning checkpoints, being used as snipers and as suicide bombers.”

In Syria, children are increasingly being used in armed and combat roles by different parties to the conflict, at times recruited as young as seven years old, Dakhlallah said.

“Often we think this is happening without parental consent,” she said. But there may be instances where the parents have been complicit, further complicating the psychological picture.

“I’ve been studying terrorism for 20 years; I have seen nothing like this,” Horgan said. “This is altogether different.”

Unprepared

While organizations like UNICEF provide a level of psychosocial services to children who have escaped the conflict, experts warn that some children may have been severely brutalized.

“I don’t think we have a real understanding of what these kids have been through,” Horgan told VOA. “We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

IS has been grooming, training and indoctrinating children for several years and has also widened its recruitment approach to include children, encouraging entire families to join IS.

Children who have escaped have described the horror they have been through.

“Some children were sexually assaulted as part of their training. Some were beaten by sticks. They slept on flea-ridden mattresses and were beaten and bullied if they faltered even for a second,” Horgan said.

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“IS executed children who showed signs of disillusionment or of missing their parent,” he added.

“These children did not emerge out of the ether in the last couple of months,” Horgan said. “[IS militants] have been grooming and indoctrinating kids for a few years now. I think it’s an investment in their future.”

UNICEF efforts

In Iraq, UNICEF says it is working with the Iraqi government to improve juvenile detention centers and programs for children in detention, including those on security-related charges.

The U.N. agency is also advocating for training front-line security forces on child rights.

But Amnesty International has criticized Iraq’s judiciary structure as weak and opaque, and security officials as barely coping with the flood of people fleeing IS control. Hundreds of males have already disappeared from unofficial security screening points.

Asked whether the humanitarian agencies were prepared for the wave of children who will be emerging from Mosul as security operations ramp up to retake the IS stronghold, Horgan had only one word to say: “No.” (VOA)

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Number Of Uninsured Children In The U.S. Rises to 3.9 Mn: Report

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling.

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Uninsured Children, U.S.
Abigail Gabriel, 8, hugs her mother, Erin, as a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services official talks about the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, during a news conference, Dec. 7, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Abigail had health care under Medicaid. VOA

The number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, placing it at 3.9 million in 2017, according to a report Thursday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Nationally, the number of uninsured children increased by an estimated 276,000 in 2017, from a historic low of 4.7 percent in 2016 to 5 percent last year. Experts say about 75 percent of the newly uninsured children are clustered in states that did not expand Medicaid such as Florida, Texas and Georgia.

Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Florida and other states could take federal funding to help pay for health coverage for nearly 900,000 people, but the Republican-led Legislature in Florida voted against it. The vast majority of states have already expanded Medicaid and increased the number of residents eligible for its coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director for Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, has written the report for the last eight years and said she’s never seen the rates of uninsured children go up in all 50 states, which happened last year.

Probiotics, Uninsured
Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country.

Better economy, low unemployment

She said that what is perhaps most concerning is that the uninsured rate among children increased despite an improving economy and low unemployment rate that allowed more children to get private coverage through their parents.

The study blamed the increases on the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to prompt an overhaul of publicly funded health care. There were major efforts to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, and the children’s CHIP insurance funding also ran out and hung in the balance for months before Congress extended it.

“There was a lot of confusion among families as to whether these public coverage sources were available,” Alker said.

At the same time, the Trump administration slashed funding for advertising and enrollment counselors to help sign people up for these health insurance programs. The country’s enrollment decline was not just in Medicaid and CHIP, but also in Obamacare, or the federal marketplace where parents can purchase private health insurance and often receive a subsidy to help pay for it.

The report noted that many of the children who do not have health insurance are eligible for coverage but just aren’t enrolled.

Central American Migrants, democratic party,Uninsured
Central American migrants begin their morning trek as part of a thousands-strong caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, as they face the Pico de Orizaba volcano upon departure from Cordoba, Mexico, Monday. VOA

‘More of a fluctuation’

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the figures were statistically insignificant.

He did agree that there were dips in Medicaid enrollment and through the Obamacare marketplace, but noted there’s no enrollment cutoff for Medicaid, meaning families can sign up their children year-round.

“It’s really more of a fluctuation. There’s no policy driver there,” he said, saying he didn’t think marketing cuts had any impact.

In Florida, the uninsured rate went from 288,000 in 2016 to 325,000 in 2017.

Refugees, asylum, uNINSURED
Honduran migrant Genesis Belen Mejia Flores, 7, waves an American flag at U.S. border control helicopters flying overhead near the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country, and also has had the highest number of enrollees purchasing insurance through the Obamacare federal marketplace. However, Medicaid expansion in Florida is likely off the table for this upcoming legislative session. Incoming Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is against it. His opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, campaigned heavily on his support to expand Medicaid coverage for more residents.

Also Read: Produce Industry In The U.S. To Step Up Produce Safety Due To Recent Outbreaks

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling, even if their children were eligible for health coverage. “We think it’s really this national unwelcome mat regarding public coverage,” Alker said. (VOA)