“It is increasingly clear that children are at risk from all sides,” Allan Rock, the Special Adviser to the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka said yesterday.The so-called Karuna faction continues to abduct children in Government-controlled areas of the East, particularly Batticaloa district, the mission said in a statement. Since May of this year, 135 cases of under-age recruitment by abduction have been reported to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “with evidence that this trend is accelerating,” it added.“The mission also discovered a disturbing development involving the Karuna abductions. It found strong and credible evidence that certain elements of the Government security forces are supporting and sometimes participating in the abductions and forced recruitment of children by the Karuna faction.”Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse assured Mr. Rock that he will order an “immediate and thorough investigation” into the allegations and if they are proved correct, he will “hold accountable those who are responsible.” Karuna’s political wing also said it would forbid under-age recruitment and release any children who may now be in its ranks, adding it would also work with UNICEF and arrange the release of those abducted children whose families have complained to the agency.The mission also found that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have “not complied” with their commitments under the Action Plan to stop child recruitment and release all the children within their ranks.“Under-age recruitment continues and the LTTE have yet to release several hundred children as verified by UNICEF.” The Action Plan was endorsed by the Government and the LTTE during peace talks in 2002 and 2003 to work with UNICEF to end the recruitment of children and to release under-age recruits.The LTTE also assured Mr. Rock that they would “immediately” start working with UNICEF to speed up the release of all child soldiers, “with the objective of completing that process by January 1, 2007,” the mission said.“Wherever I travelled, I saw with my own eyes that systems meant to safeguard children’s rights are either deteriorating or absent. It is apparent that there is an urgent need for an independent monitoring capacity to ensure that children affected by the conflict are protected,” said Mr. Rock.Apart from the issues of child recruitment and abductions, the mission also observed the deteriorating humanitarian situation in certain areas of the North and East. In particular, during his visits to Vaharai and Jaffna, Mr. Rock saw first hand the fear, isolation and critical unmet needs of internally displaced children there. Fighting between Government forces and the LTTE has intensified since April, and especially over the past few weeks, despite a ceasefire agreed in 2002 aimed at ending a conflict that has lasted for more than 20 years and claimed some 60,000 lives. read more

They are stories often told — of seniors who have fallen while completing seemingly simple tasks around the house.It’s not uncommon for those falls to be attributed to age without a second thought of why they actually occurred.As people age, anxiety and a fear of falling influences the way they move their bodies. If they stiffen up or have poor posture, it may increase their likelihood of falling during voluntary movements.This is the focus of research conducted by Angel Phanthanourak, a Master of Science in Applied Health Sciences student and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Science, Action! competition candidate.“I became interested in the topic of anticipatory postural adjustments after I learned that adjustments we make to our posture to prevent a loss of balance become less efficient with aging,” Phanthanourak said.“The reductions in these protective adjustments may in part be a result of elevated anxiety and fear related to their balance — feelings prevalent in frail, older adults.”By observing her grandparents, Phanthanourak has witnessed firsthand how debilitating these elevated levels of anxiety and their consequences can be.The frailer her grandparents became the less willing they were to engage in social gatherings, she explained. They were nervous to complete everyday activities from a fear of falling.It is this avoidance of activities that has left her grandmother in a more fragile state than ever before and at risk of experiencing a fall.Inspired by her grandmother and the challenges she has encountered, Phanthanourak created a 60-second video on her research and submitted it to NSERC’s Science, Action! nationwide competition.Her entry, along with three others submitted by Brock students, made it into the Top 40 and is in the race to make the finals.The 25 videos with the most views on YouTube between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28 will proceed to the final round, where a panel of judges will select the winners.Phanthanourak has received scholarships throughout her academic career, which has allowed her to focus on learning and contributing to research, rather than concentrating only on her finances. “Winning the Science, Action! competition would further reduce the financial burdens associated with continuing graduate studies, allowing me to continue contributing to research in a productive manner,” she said.Throughout Phanthanourak’s undergraduate and graduate studies, Associate Professor Craig Tokuno has played an important role in developing her love of research.As her thesis supervisor, Tokuno has worked with Phanthanourak closely and recognizes the importance of her research on a larger scale. “Over the years, I have been extremely fortunate to have supervised many motivated and independent students, but Angel’s research abilities and enthusiasm toward research are unparalleled,” Tokuno said.The results of her research will “give us a better understanding of how and why an individual’s ability to maintain body stability changes or deteriorates with age,” he said.“Long term, the results of Angel’s studies may lead to new rehabilitation or balance training strategies for clinicians such as physical therapists, kinesiologists and neurologists.”To watch Phanthanourak’s video and support her in the NSERC’s Science, Action! competition, watch Fear of Falls below. The 15 competition finalists will be announced no later than April 5.Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four stories profiling the four Brock University students in the running to win the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Science, Action! competition. All four videos are available for viewing on a recent article published in The Brock News. read more