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Colombia hostilities disrupt 250,000 children's lives since 2013: report
by Staff Writers
United Nations, United States (AFP) March 19, 2016

Prince Harry hopes to draw focus to quake-hit Nepal with visit
Kathmandu (AFP) March 19, 2016 - Britain's Prince Harry arrived in Nepal Saturday for a five-day visit and said he hopes to "shine a spotlight" on resilience of Nepali people recovering from last year's devastating quake.

"I pay my respects to those who perished and hope to do what I can to shine a spotlight on the resilience of the Nepali people," Prince Harry said in his address at a reception held by Nepal's government to welcome him on Saturday evening.

"I want to show all those people around the world who want to help that this is a country open for business - so please come and visit again," he said.

The prince will meet with survivors of last year's devastating earthquake and Gurkha soldiers who helped in rescue efforts on his first visit to the country, which celebrates 200 years of joint relations between Nepal and Britain.

Harry, 31, met Nepal's prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli after his arrival and is scheduled to hold a meeting with the country's first female president, Bidhya Bhandari, during the weekend.

The prince is set to visit heritage sites hit by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake last April that killed nearly 9,000 people, with the country still reeling from the after-effects.

A member of the British army for 10 years before retiring in June, he served along with Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan and will meet members of the brigade during his visit.

The British army's 2,500-strong Gurkha brigade is made up of soldiers recruited in Nepal and has been part of the military for 200 years.

"I served alongside Gurkhas during my first tour of Afghanistan and I look forward to visiting the communities that have produced and supported these extraordinary soldiers," he said.

The prince's tour will also take him to Bardia National Park in western Nepal, famous for its tiger conservation efforts, according to a statement on his official website.

Harry also plans to undertake a trek on the foothills of the Himalayas as well as spending a night at a Gurkha soldier's home.

"I look forward to exploring your landscapes, celebrating your culture, and I hope to make many new friends along the way," the prince said.

"I cannot wait to get out and see all that this country has to offer."

Following the earthquake, Nepal is desperate to revive tourism including its mountaineering industry, key revenue-earners for the impoverished Himalayan nation.

"His visit is very important, and will send a positive message about Nepal to the world," said Ram Hari Adhikari, general secretary of the UK Nepal Friendship Society.

Nepal, a former kingdom, has been visited by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Hostilities in Colombia have displaced or otherwise disrupted the lives of more than 250,000 children since peace talks began three years ago, the United Nations children's agency said on Sunday.

Among them, almost 300 children were killed or injured and some 1,000 recruited or otherwise exploited by non-state armed groups during the talks between the government and the left-wing FARC rebels, according to a report by UNICEF released three days before a deadline for a final deal both sides say will probably pass unmet.

"As peace negotiations to end half a century of war in Colombia continue, it is crucial to make children's interests and protection a priority," Roberto De Bernardi, UNICEF representative in Colombia, said in a statement. "No child in Colombia today knows what it is like to live in a country at peace."

The government's peace talks with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels are aimed at ending five decades of conflict, which has also involved right-wing paramilitary groups.

Although a settlement is expected soon, the talks have stumbled over the details of an eventual truce, negotiators said last week.

The peace talks have helped reduce the number of children killed, injured and displaced by roughly half, UNICEF said.

However, widespread violence has continued to disrupt lives, the agency added.

More than 230,000 children have been displaced, at least 75 killed and 180 injured by fighting, the report said.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance have killed or injured another 130 children, it added.

At least 180 children were victim to sexual violence, UNICEF said, adding that displacement, fear and presence of landmines are also causing children to drop out of school.

"Even if the peace agreement were to be signed tomorrow, children will continue to be at risk of all kinds of violations," De Bernardi said. "Unless these children receive the material and psychological assistance they need, the prospects of long-lasting peace will remain elusive."

Negotiators at the talks have announced several key advances in recent months, but a final deal remains elusive.

The goal is to turn the FARC into a political party and end a grinding, complex conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people and uprooted 6.6 million.

The FARC guerrillas have been observing a unilateral ceasefire since July. But while the government has stopped bombing their positions, it has yet to accede to the rebels' demand for a bilateral ceasefire.

On the ground in Colombia, hostilities have almost entirely halted under the FARC's unilateral ceasefire -- although a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has not joined the peace process and continues periodic attacks.

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