Saturday, 31 December 2016

Fantastic voyage: top 10 adventures in Asia-Pacific

Otgontsetseg with her family outside their home in Arbulag soum, Mongolia
© Andy Brown/2013/Mongolia
After six years of living and working in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s time to wind up this blog and start a new one about Southern Africa, tentatively called 'Beneath the Baobab'. But before I go, here are my top ten adventures from across the region, starting with Mongolia:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Field of dreams: children in a Kachin camp hope for peace

Baum with her family at a camp for displaced people near Myitkyina
UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Khine Zar Mon
Baum Myaw, 12, lives with her family at a camp for displaced people near Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State, Myanmar. Kachin has been affected by conflict since 2011, following the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire. The recent violence has resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of around 100,000 civilians, including children. Despite ongoing peace talks, a final deal has proved elusive and the fighting continues.

Soon after the conflict reignited in 2011, Myaw’s family was forced to flee their home in Sadaung Township, near the border with China, due to fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar national army).

Friday, 29 July 2016

Children, not tourist attractions: keeping families together in Myanmar

Children walk through a rice field in Dala, one of the locations for orphanage tourism
© UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Andy Brown
Every twenty minutes, a busy ferry crosses the river from downtown Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, to the rural village of Dala on the opposite bank. On a recent morning, the ferry was packed with local commuters wearing Burmese ‘longyi’ skirts, vendors selling speckled eggs and cigarettes, and a handful of adventurous tourists.

As soon as I disembarked at Dala pier, I was approached by a thick-set young man with a pony tail and baseball cap. He introduced himself as Meh Meh, 28, and offered me a tour of the area by rickshaw. “What’s your name, where you from, you want trishaw tour?” he asked. “I take you to pagoda, fishing village, Cyclone village,orphanage. 15,000 Kyats.”

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Billy the Hero: teenagers stay safe online

Nicole, 14, from Malaysia with her creation ‘Billy the Hero’
© UNICEF EAPRO/2016/Andy Brown
From social media to online chatting, the Internet has countless avenues for sharing and connecting with friends and communities. But this open network also carries many risks, especially for children. After falling victim to cyberbullying, Nicole is on a mission to make sure the same doesn’t happen to her peers. #youthvoice

Fourteen-year-old Nicole is a confident and outgoing girl from Kuala Lumpur, or ‘KL’ as locals call it. Famous for its iconic Petronas Twin Towers, her city is the high-rise metropolitan capital of Malaysia. Her parents run a small business selling pens, t-shirts and merchandise. Nicole’s dream is to become an architect and help design the next generation of KL’s buildings.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Location, location: mobile dating apps and HIV

Nest (right) and friend Jesse look at gay dating apps on a smart phone
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Andy Brown
Nest is a 19-year-old living in Bangkok. Like many other gay adolescents, he uses mobile apps to meet up for dates. “I use apps to meet other guys nearby,” he says. “I don’t like to have sex at the first meeting, I prefer to chat and get to know the person first. But some of my friends just meet up for sex.”

A new report, Adolescents: Under the Radar in the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response, shows that the Asia-Pacific region is facing a ‘hidden epidemic’ of HIV among adolescents. Although new HIV infections are falling overall, they are rising among teenagers. In 2014, there were at least 220,000 adolescents aged 10-19 living with HIV in the region, with major cities like Bangkok and Hong Kong hubs of new infections.