Feed aggregator

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 13:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Chief US Gun Laws Enforcer Fears Americans Becoming Numb to Violence

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 12:34
LEWISTON, MAINE — The head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says he fears that a drumbeat of mass shootings and other gun violence across the United States could make Americans numb to the bloodshed, fostering apathy to finding solutions rather than galvanizing communities to act. Director Steve Dettelbach's comments to The Associated Press came after he met this past week with family members of some of the 18 people killed in October at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine, by a U.S. Army reservist who later took his own life. He said people must not accept that gun violence is a prevalent part of American life. “It seems to me that things that we used to sort of consider memorable, life-altering, shocking events that you might think about and talk about for months or years to come now are happening with seeming frequency that makes it so that we sort of think, "That's just the one that happened this week,'" he said. “If we come to sort of accept that, that's a huge hurdle in addressing the problem.” Dettelbach, whose agency is responsible for enforcing the nation’s gun laws, met for nearly two hours at Central Maine Community College with relatives of those killed and survivors of the Lewiston shooting. An AP reporter also attended, along with other law enforcement officials. Some expressed frustration about missed red flags and questioned why the gunman was able to get the weapon he used. Dettelbach told his audience that they can be a powerful catalyst for change. "I’m sorry that we have to be in a place where we have to have these horrible tragedies happen for people to pay attention, but they have to pay attention,” Dettelbach said. “I can go around and talk, but your voices are very important and powerful voices. So, if you choose to use them, you should understand that it makes a difference. It really makes a difference.” Those who met with Dettelbach included members of Maine's close-knit community of deaf and hard of hearing people, which lost four people in the October 25 shooting at a bowling alley and bar. Megan Vozzella, whose husband, Stephen, was killed, told Dettelbach through an ASL interpreter that the shooting underscores the need for law enforcement to improve communications with members of the deaf community. She said they felt out of the loop after the shooting. “Nothing we do at this point will bring back my husband and the other victims,” Vozzella said in an interview after the meeting. “It hurts my heart to talk about this and so learning more every day about this, my only hope is that this can improve for the future." There are questions about why neither local law enforcement nor the military intervened to take away weapons from the shooter, Robert Card, despite his deteriorating mental health. In police body cam video released to the media this month, Card told New York troopers before his hospitalization last summer that fellow soldiers were worried about him because he was “gonna friggin’ do something.” Dettelbach, in the AP interview, declined to comment on the specifics of Card's case, which an independent commission in Maine is investigating. But he said it is clear that the nation needs to make it harder for people "that everyone agrees should not have firearms, who the law says are not entitled to have firearms, to get them because it's too easy to get them now." Dettelbach's conversation with victims was part of a tour in New England that also included meetings with law enforcement and others to discuss ways to tackle gun violence. Dettelbach, who has expressed support for universal background checks and banning so-called assault weapons, said he regularly meets with those affected by gun violence. “Each one of these shootings is a tragedy that takes lives and changes other lives forever. And that’s whether it makes the news or not, whether it’s the suicide of a child or a drive-by in the city, whether it’s a massacre at a parade, a spray bullets on a subway, whether it’s a man who kills his family, murders police” or a student with a rifle “shooting up their school,” he said during a speech at Dartmouth College on Wednesday. “I submit to you that it is our patriotic duty as Americans to respond, to think of these people, to have their backs, to view this tough news as a call to action.”

Guilty Verdict in 1st US Hate Crime Trial Over Gender Identity

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 12:02
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA — A South Carolina man was found guilty Friday of killing a Black transgender woman in the nation’s first federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity. After deliberating for roughly four hours, jurors convicted Daqua Lameek Ritter of a hate crime for the murder of Dime Doe in 2019. Ritter was also found guilty of using a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting and obstructing justice. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. Ritter faces a maximum of life imprisonment without parole. “This case stands as a testament to our committed effort to fight violence that is targeted against those who may identify as a member of the opposite sex, for their sexual orientation or for any other protected characteristics,” Brook Andrews, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, told reporters after the verdict. While federal officials have previously prosecuted hate crimes based on gender identity, the cases never reached trial. A Mississippi man received a 49-year prison sentence in 2017 as part of a plea deal after he admitted to killing a 17-year-old transgender woman. The four-day trial over Doe's killing centered on the secret sexual relationship between her and Ritter, the latter of whom had grown agitated by the exposure of their affair in the small town of Allendale, according to witness testimony and text messages obtained by the FBI. Prosecutors accused Ritter of shooting Doe three times with a .22 caliber handgun to prevent further revelation of his involvement with a transgender woman. Prosecutors presented police interviews in which Ritter said he did not see Doe the day she died. But body camera video from a traffic stop of Doe showed Ritter's distinctive left wrist tattoo on a person in the passenger seat hours before police found her slumped in the car, parked in a driveway. Defense lawyer Lindsey Vann argued at trial that no physical evidence pointed to Ritter. State law enforcement never processed a gunshot residue test that he took voluntarily, she said, and the pair's intimate relationship and frequent car rides made it no surprise that Ritter would have been with her. Doe's close friends testified that it was no secret in Allendale that she had begun her social transition as a woman shortly after graduating high school. She started dressing in skirts, getting her nails done and wearing extensions. She and her friends discussed boys they were seeing — including Ritter, whom she met during one of his many summertime visits from New York to stay with family. But text messages obtained by the FBI suggested that Ritter sought to keep their relationship under wraps as much as possible, prosecutors said. He reminded her to delete their communications from her phone, and hundreds of texts sent in the month before her death were removed. Shortly before Doe’s death, their exchanges grew tense. In one message from July 29, 2019, she complained that Ritter did not reciprocate her generosity. He replied that he thought they had an understanding that she didn’t need the “extra stuff.” He also told her that Delasia Green, his main girlfriend at the time, had insulted him with a homophobic slur after learning of the affair. In a July 31 text, Doe said she felt used, and Ritter should never have let Green find out about them. Ritter’s defense attorneys said the sampling represented only a “snapshot” of their messages. They pointed to other exchanges where Doe encouraged Ritter, or where he thanked her for one of her many kindnesses. Witnesses offered other damaging testimony. On the day Doe died, a group of friends saw Ritter ride away in a silver car with tinted windows — a vehicle that Ritter’s acquaintance Kordell Jenkins said he had seen Doe drive previously. When Ritter returned several hours later, Jenkins said, he wore a new outfit and appeared “on edge.” The friends built a fire in a barrel to smoke out the mosquitoes on that buggy summer day, and Ritter emptied his book bag into it, Jenkins testified. He said he couldn’t see the contents but assumed they were items Ritter no longer wanted, possibly the clothes he wore earlier. The two ran into each other the following day, Jenkins said, and he could see the silver handle of a small firearm sticking out from Ritter's waistline. He said Ritter asked him to “get it gone.” Defense attorneys suggested that Jenkins fabricated the story to please prosecutors and argued it was preposterous to think Ritter would ask someone he barely knew to dispose of a murder weapon. They said Ritter’s friends gave conflicting accounts about details like the purported burning of his clothes while facing the threat of prosecution if they failed to cooperate. With Allendale abuzz with rumors that Ritter killed Doe, he began behaving uncharacteristically, according to witness testimony. Green said that when he showed up days later at her cousin’s house in Columbia, he was dirty, smelly and couldn’t stop pacing. Her cousin’s boyfriend gave Ritter a ride to the bus stop. Before he left, Green asked him if he had killed Doe. “He dropped his head and gave me a little smirk,” Green said. Ritter monitored the fallout from New York, FBI Special Agent Clay Trippi said, citing Facebook messages with another friend, Xavier Pinckney. On August 11, Pinckney told Ritter that nobody was “really talking." But by August 14, Pinckney was warning Ritter to stay away from Allendale because he had been visited by state police. Somebody was “snitching,” he later said. Pinckney faces charges of obstructing justice. Federal officials allege he gave false and misleading statements to investigators.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 12:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Oil-Slick From Cargo Ship Attacked by Iranian-Backed Houthis Growing

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 11:44
CAIRO — An attack by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels on a Belize-flagged ship earlier this month caused a 29-kilometer (18-mile) oil slick, the U.S. military said Saturday. It also warned of the danger of a spill from the vessel's cargo of fertilizer. The Rubymar, a British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo vessel, was attacked on Feb. 18 while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Central Command said. The missile attack forced the crew to abandon the vessel, which had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates. It was transporting more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer, CENTCOM said in a statement. The vessel suffered significant damage, which led to the slick, said the CENTCOM statement, warning that the ship's cargo “could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster.” “The Houthis continue to demonstrate disregard for the regional impact of their indiscriminate attacks, threatening the fishing industry, coastal communities and imports of food supplies,” it said. The Associated Press, relying on satellite images from Planet Labs PBC of the stricken vessel, reported Tuesday that the vessel was leaking oil in the Red Sea. Yemen’s internationally recognized government Saturday called for other countries and maritime-protection organizations to quickly address the oil slick and avert “a significant environmental disaster.” In a statement, the government, which sits in the southern city of Aden, said the vessel is heading toward the Hanish Islands, a Yemeni archipelago in the southern Red Sea. Separately, CENTCOM said it launched attacks on Houthi-held areas in Yemen on Friday, destroying seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch toward the Red Sea. It described the strikes as “self-defense,” saying that the missiles “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the U.S. Navy ships in the region.” CENTCOM didn’t give further details. Houthi-run media, however, reported strikes by the U.S. and the U.K. on the district of Durayhimi in the Red Sea province of Hodeida. The U.S. military has in recent weeks launched waves of strikes on Houthi-held areas inside Yemen in response to the Houthis’ attacks on shipping routes in the Red Sea. Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. They claim to be acting over Israel’s war targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip, however they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe. The targeted vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, the Houthis' main benefactor.

West African Heads Meet to Keep Junta-Led Nations in Bloc

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 11:23
ABUJA, Nigeria — Heads of state across West Africa are meeting Saturday to call again on three junta-led nations to rescind their decision to quit the regional bloc and to review sanctions imposed on Niger following a coup there. The summit of the 15-nation regional economic bloc known as ECOWAS in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, comes at a critical time when the 49-year-old bloc’s future is threatened as it struggles with possible disintegration and a recent surge in coups fueled by discontent over the performance of elected governments whose citizens barely benefit from mineral resources. Decisions to be made at the summit “must be guided by our commitment to safeguarding the constitutional order, upholding democratic principles and promoting the social and economic well-being of the citizens,” Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, current chairman of ECOWAS, said at the start of the summit. Top of the agenda is the recent decision by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to leave ECOWAS, or the Economic Community of West African States, over “inhumane sanctions.” That move is unprecedented since the bloc was established in 1975 and grew to become the region’s top political and economic authority. “We must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in our member states,” Tinubu said. “I therefore urge them to reconsider the decision ... and not to perceive our organization as the enemy.” The summit is also expected to review the harsh sanctions imposed on Niger. This week, one of the bloc’s founding leaders and Nigeria’s former military ruler, Yakubu Gowon, urged regional leaders to lift the sanctions, noting that the bloc is “more than a coalition of states [but] is a community established for the good of our people.” In the past year, however, the bloc has struggled to resolve the region’s most pressing challenge: The Sahel, the vast, arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert that stretches across several West African countries, faces growing violence from Islamic extremists and rebels, which in turn has caused soldiers to depose elected governments. The nine coups in West and Central Africa since 2020 followed a similar pattern, with coup leaders accusing governments of failing to provide security and good governance. Most of the coup-hit countries are also among the poorest and least-developed in the world. The sanctions against Niger and the threat of military intervention to reverse the coup were “the likely triggers to an inevitable outcome” of the three countries’ withdrawal from the bloc, said Karim Manuel, an analyst for the Middle East and Africa with the Economist Intelligence Unit. With their withdrawal, “the West African region will be increasingly fragmented and divided (while) the new alliance between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger fragments the West African bloc and reflects an axis of opposition to the traditional structures that have underpinned the region for decades,” Manuel added.

Eiffel Tower Staff Strike Ends; Site to Reopen Sunday

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 11:09
PARIS — A strike by staff at the Eiffel Tower has ended, the company that runs one of the most visited tourist sites in the world said in a statement Saturday.  The tower will reopen Sunday, the Societe d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, or SETE, which is owned by Paris City Hall, said.  Workers at the Eiffel Tower went on strike on Feb. 19 in protest over the way the Paris monument is managed.  It came as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which begin on July 26 and will feature metal from the tower in the winners' medals.  SETE and trade unions "reached an end-of-strike agreement stipulating that the parties will regularly review the company's business model, maintenance costs and sales through a body that will meet every six months," the company said.  SETE said visitors who bought tickets between Feb. 19-24 will get refunds.  Unions claim Paris City Hall, which owns 99% of SETE, is underestimating the cost of the planned maintenance and repairs to the monument ahead of the Olympics. 

WWII-Era Bomb Prompts One of Largest Peacetime Evacuations in UK History

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 11:00
LONDON — A World War II-era bomb whose discovery prompted one of the largest peacetime evacuations in British history has been detonated at sea, the Ministry of Defense said Saturday. The 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) explosive was discovered Tuesday in the backyard of a home in Plymouth, a port city on the southwestern coast of Britain. More than 10,000 residents were evacuated to ensure their safety as a military convoy transported the unexploded bomb through a densely populated residential area to a ferry slipway, from which it was taken out to sea. “I think it is fair to say that the last few days will go down in history for Plymouth,” said Tudor Evans, the leader of Plymouth City Council. Plymouth, home to major naval bases for centuries, was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Britain during World War II. Fifty-nine separate air raids killed 1,174 civilians, according to local officials. The raids destroyed almost 3,800 homes, and heavily damaged another 18,000.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 11:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Dior Postpones Hong Kong Fashion Show ‘Indefinitely’

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 10:51
HONG KONG — Dior has postponed a fashion show set to be held in Hong Kong next month, a city official confirmed Saturday, dealing a blow to the financial hub's ambitions to boost its economy through major events. Hong Kong is courting top international celebrities and brands in the hope of rebooting its reputation, which has been battered by years of social unrest and strict pandemic curbs.  The Dior fashion show — meant to feature artistic director Kim Jones and the men's autumn collection — was to be one of several "mega events" touted last month by Hong Kong's culture, sports and tourism chief, Kevin Yeung, as part of the city's drive to become an event capital.  But Yeung's office confirmed to AFP on Saturday that it had "just been notified" by organizers that the fashion show would not go ahead as scheduled on March 23.  "Large-scale events are postponed from time to time, and we continue to welcome large-scale events to take place in Hong Kong," a spokesperson for Yeung's office said.  Dior said the show had been "postponed indefinitely" without giving specifics, according to a company statement quoted by the South China Morning Post.  According to the South China Morning Post, the event was expected to cost about $100 million ($12.8 million U.S.) and draw nearly 1,000 attendees.   Louis Vuitton in November held its men's pre-fall 2024 show in Hong Kong, led by creative director Pharrell Williams and drawing celebrity guests from China and South Korea.  The much-hyped runway show was seen as a boon to Hong Kong's international image and a sign of the luxury giant's commitment to Asian markets. 

Pope Francis Cancels Meeting With Rome Deacons Due to Mild Flu

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 10:40
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has canceled an audience scheduled for Saturday as a precaution after coming down with a mild case of the flu, the Vatican press office said in a short statement without adding further details. Francis was scheduled to meet with Rome deacons in the morning. Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said later Saturday that the pope’s weekly Sunday Angelus address was still to be confirmed and that no further health updates were expected for the day. The 87-year-old pontiff has had several health problems in recent years. In late November, he was forced to cancel some of his activities and an international trip because of breathing problems. A scan at the time ruled out lung complications. Francis had a part of one lung removed when he was young and still living in his native Argentina. In April, the pope spent three days at Rome's Gemelli hospital for what the Vatican said was bronchitis. He was discharged after receiving intravenous antibiotics. Francis also spent 10 days at the same hospital in July 2021 following intestinal surgery for narrowing of the bowel. He was readmitted in June 2023 for an operation to repair an abdominal hernia and remove scarring from previous surgeries. When asked about his health in a recent television interview, Francis quipped what has become his standard line: “Still alive, you know.” Over the past two years, Francis has indicated several times that he would be ready to step down, following the example of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, if his health deteriorates to the point that it becomes an impediment to him leading the Catholic Church. However, in a TV interview last month, he said he felt in good health and denied immediate plans to resign. Speculation about Francis’ health and the future of his pontificate has increased following Benedict's death in late 2022. Benedict's resignation in 2013 marked a turning point for the church, as he became the first pontiff in six centuries to step down.

Chip Giant TSMC Shifts From Hotspot Taiwan With Japan Plant

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 10:30
TOKYO — Chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. opened its first semiconductor plant in Japan Saturday as part of its ongoing global expansion. “We are deeply grateful for the seamless support provided by you at every step,” TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said after thanking the Japanese government, local community and business partners, including electronic giant Sony and auto-parts maker Denso. The company's founder, Morris Chang, was also present at the ceremony in Kikuyo. This comes as Japan is trying to regain its presence in the chip production industry. Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing, or JASM, is set to be up and running later this year. TSMC also announced plans for a second plant in Japan earlier this month, with production expected to start in about three years. Private sector investment totals $20 billion for both plants. Both plants are in the Kumamoto region, southwestern Japan. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a congratulatory video message, calling the plant’s opening “a giant first step.” He stressed Japan's friendly relations with Taiwan and the importance of cutting-edge semiconductor technology. Japan had previously promised TSMC 476 billion yen ($3 billion) in government funding to encourage the semiconductor giant to invest. Kishida confirmed a second package, raising Japan's support to more than 1 trillion yen ($7 billion). Although TSMC is building its second plant in the U.S. and has announced a plan for its first in Europe, Japan could prove an attractive option. Closer to Taiwan geographically, Japan is an important U.S. ally. Neighboring China claims the self-governing island as its own territory and says it must come under Beijing’s control. The long-running divide is a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations. The move is also important for Japan, which has recently earmarked about 5 trillion yen ($33 billion) to revive its chips industry. Four decades ago, Japan dominated in chips, headlined by Toshiba Corp. and NEC controlling half the world’s production. That’s declined lately to under 10%, due to competition from South Korean, U.S. and European manufacturers, as well as from TSMC. The coronavirus pandemic negatively affected the supply of electronic chips, stalling plants, including automakers, with Japan almost entirely dependent on chip imports. This pushed Japan to seek chip production in pursuit of self-sufficiency. Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation, Denso Corporation and top automaker Toyota Motor Corporation are investing in TSMC’s Japan plant, with the Taiwanese giant retaining an 86.5% ownership of JASM. Once the two plants are up and running, they’re expected to create 3,400 high-tech jobs directly, according to TSMC. Ensuring access to an ample supply of the most advanced chips is vital with the growing popularity of electric vehicles and artificial intelligence. Some analysts note Japan still leads in crucial aspects of the industry, as seen in Tokyo Electron, which manufactures the machinery used to produce chips. Still, it’s clear the Japanese government is intent on playing catchup. Tokyo is supporting various semiconductor projects nationwide, such as those involving Western Digital and Micron of the U.S., and Japanese companies such as Renesas Electronics, Canon and Sumitomo.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 10:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

US Should Block Chinese Auto Imports From Mexico, US Makers Say

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 09:52
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government should block the import of low-cost Chinese autos and parts from Mexico, a U.S. manufacturing advocacy group said Friday, warning they could threaten the viability of American car companies.  "The introduction of cheap Chinese autos — which are so inexpensive because they are backed with the power and funding of the Chinese government — to the American market could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector," the Alliance for American Manufacturing said in a report.  The group argues the United States should work to prevent automobiles and parts manufactured in Mexico by companies headquartered in China from benefiting from a North American free trade agreement. "The commercial backdoor left open to Chinese auto imports should be shut before it causes mass plant closures and job losses in the United States," the report said.  Vehicles and parts produced in Mexico can qualify for preferential treatment under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement as well as qualifying for a $7,500 electric vehicle, or EV, tax credit, the report noted.  The Chinese embassy in Washington said in response that China's automobile exports "reflect the high-quality development and strong innovation of China’s manufacturing industry. ... The leapfrog development of China’s auto industry has provided cost-effective products with high quality to the world."  The issue has received new interest after news reports that China's BYD Company plans to set up an EV factory in Mexico. BYD, known for its cheaper models and a more varied lineup, recently overtook its biggest rival, Tesla, to become the world's top EV maker by sales.  Tesla announced plans almost a year ago to build a factory in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. In October, Mexico said a Chinese Tesla supplier and a Chinese technology company would invest nearly a billion dollars in the state.  A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has urged the Biden administration to hike tariffs on Chinese-made vehicles and investigate ways to prevent Chinese companies from exporting to the United States from Mexico.  A group of lawmakers urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to boost the 27.5% tariff on Chinese vehicles and said her office "must also be prepared to address the coming wave of [Chinese] vehicles that will be exported from our other trading partners, such as Mexico, as [Chinese] automakers look to strategically establish operations outside of [China]."  Alliance for Automotive Innovation CEO John Bozzella has said that proposed U.S. environmental regulations could let China gain "a stronger foothold in America’s electric vehicle battery supply chain and eventually our automotive market."  The U.S. Treasury issued guidelines in December on the $7,500 EV tax credit aimed at weaning the U.S. EV supply chain away from China. 

Ukraine Marks Second Anniversary of Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 09:00
Anna Chernikova reports from Kyiv on the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 09:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 08:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

UNICEF Says Ukraine War Wreaks Havoc on Children’s Mental Health

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 07:15
GENEVA — The two-year-old Ukraine war is causing widespread suffering, anxiety and distress among affected children, many of whom have been separated from their families and friends, had schooling disrupted and lived for months in cold underground bunkers, a UNICEF spokesman told VOA Wednesday. “Two years of this war is wreaking havoc on children’s mental health now. They have not been anywhere near a classroom for years, and they have not seen their friends. Many of their friends have gone,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told VOA from Kharkiv, Ukraine, by Zoom. Elder, who was midway through a weeklong mission in Ukraine, said the situation prevailing today is different from that right after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, but pointed to the population’s sense of grief and fear that has persisted. “When I arrived a day after the war started, I was in Lviv watching what was the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and that was just one of grief, just these endless farewells of husbands and wives and fathers and children, as people just fled across the borders,” he said. “To be here two years later, particularly this year in Kharkiv with its proximity to Russia, I think it is still grief. It is very real fear that what has happened to these people during those first five, six months will happen again here,” he said. “It is not debilitating fear. They will not allow that to happen. But it is fear because attacks are very consistent.” The battle of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Russian border, took place between February 24 and May 13, 2022. It took a heavy toll in civilian lives and caused significant destruction and damage to the city’s infrastructure.   Schools damaged and destroyed According to the Ukrainian government, more than 3,800 educational facilities in the country have been damaged or destroyed, severely interrupting access to education for millions of children. Only 2 out of 700 schools in Kharkiv are delivering in-person learning. Most children are studying online. Others attend classes in five Metro stations that have been converted into underground schools. Elder said the loss of in-school education is having a profound impact on young peoples’ mental health. “I must have heard parents and psychologists talk to me about their concerns about socialization of children, of little ones being scared in groups together, of teenagers that are never seeing each other,” he said. “That isolation and lack of socialization, I think, is just bringing home what everyone fears — that this psychological scarring after two years is becoming very pronounced among young people and among their parents.”   Constant air raid alerts Elder told VOA it is distressing for young people having to drop everything and rush to an underground shelter whenever air raid alerts sound. “I was just speaking to a 16-year-old girl who was injured in the first hour of the war two years ago, and she still spoke of her fear because the air raids are so consistent, because she knows that it takes 45 seconds for most of these missiles or drones to come across. That is usually not enough time for air defenses,” he said. UNICEF says that children in frontline cities have been forced to spend 3,000 to 5,000 hours, the equivalent of four to almost seven months, sheltering in basements and underground Metro stations. The agency says this winter has been “particularly horrific for children, with thousands sheltering in cold, damp basements,” as increasing attacks have left many families without heat, water and electricity. “The continued shelling leaves little opportunity for Ukraine’s children to recover from the distress and trauma associated with attacks,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement Friday. “Every siren and explosion bring further anxiety. Education is a pillar of hope, opportunity and stability in children’s lives, but it continues to be disrupted or out of reach for millions of Ukraine’s children,” she said.   Children and parents affected According to a UNICEF survey, half of 13- to 15-year-olds have trouble sleeping, and 1 in 5 have intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, which are “typical manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder.”Data shows that parents also suffer high levels of anxiety, excessive fear, phobias and sadness and that “at a time when parental support is most needed, half of parents surveyed report that they are struggling to support their children.” Elder expressed concern that two years of war have robbed Ukrainian children of their childhood. “And the war is not stopping,” he said. “In fact, in some areas, it has deteriorated. It has got more intense in the last month or two. And that is pushing children further and further into their shells — more and more squashing their hopes.” He said, “Fewer and fewer children think about what they might want to do in six months or 12 months. Everyone I talk to says they take things day by day. “As a woman said, our aim is to survive the night and then wake up in the morning,” he said.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 07:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

VOA Newscasts

Voice of America’s immigration news - February 24, 2024 - 06:00
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Pages