How 17-year-old Ukrainian Valeriia escaped a Russian re-education camp

17-year-old Ukrainian Valeriia was abducted to a Russian re-education camp in Crimea. She tells Euronews how she made it back to Ukraine on her own.


Before the full-scale invasion, 17-year-old Valeriia lived an ordinary life as a 10th-grade student, preparing for exams and taking part in activities, including dancing and aerial gymnastics. She lived with a family member since the age of 13 following the death of her parents.

Everything changed with the Russian full-scale invasion

Valeriia had a bright future ahead of herself – everything was supposed to work out the way she wanted. When she heard about the full-scale invasion on the news, it felt surreal to her. Everything changed rapidly, and she struggled to fully understand the situation.

Russian troops soon arrived and occupied the southern Ukrainian city of Nova Kakhovka, also her hometown. During a particularly intense period of shelling, she was forced to live without food after Ukrainian supplies ran out, but the situation stabilised after supply trucks from occupied Crimea started arriving. Back then, Russian military police gradually appeared in the city, located in the Kherson Oblast. It was a quiet period – explosions didn’t shatter the air.

In October 2022, Russian troops announced an “evacuation” of children from Nova Kakhovka to occupied Crimea. Valeriia, along with other kids, had to gather in the main square surrounded by armed military. Buses took them to the Crimean border. Upon arrival, they confiscated the children’s passports and documents.

“Russia will give you everything”

After Valeriia arrived in a Crimean camp called ‘Luchystiy,’ paediatricians examined the children for lice and COVID-19. She remembers the camp resembling a retirement home, but devoid of child-centric amenities. Plus the facility was surrounded by armed police officers, constantly guarding the children. A regimented daily routine included singing the Russian National Anthem – which she refused. Authorities promoted Russian universities and lifestyles, promising them that “Russia will give you everything”.

For Valeriia, the coerced environment raised concerns about her freedom and future, but the daily schedule was unpredictable, therefore making it difficult to plan. “The camps were re-education camps”, she added. In her opinion, they served the purpose of ensuring the majority of children ended up going to Russia. The classes could therefore only be described as propaganda, she remembered, adding that learning Ukrainian at the school was not an option.

The programme at these camps is called ‘University Shift‘ and operates with the support of the Russian Ministry of Education of Russia and the Ministry of Education and Science. It aims to (re-)educate children aged 12-17 from temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories into Russian culture and history.

“The forceful deportation of Ukrainian children is a part of genocidal policy”

According to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, human rights lawyer and Center for Civil Liberties-leader, Oleksandra Matviichuk, these camps and their aim to russify Ukrainian children is not just a war crime, but part of a broader picture. “This war has a genocidal character”, she said, “Putin openly said that Ukrainians don’t exist, that we are the same as Russians. We see these words implemented into horrible practice on the ground since 2014.” 

Just like Valeriia, she also mentioned the deliberate ban on the Ukrainian language and history. “For ten years, we’ve been documenting how Russians deliberately exterminate acting locals, such as mayors, journalists, civil society actors, priests and artists, for example.”

In this regard, the forceful deportation of Ukrainian children is part of a genocide policy, because some of them are put in re-education camps where they’re told they’re Russian and Russia is their motherland, she told me. “Later, some of them are subjected to forceful adoption into Russian families to be brought up as Russians,” Matviichuk continued.

As a lawyer, she knows how difficult it is to prove this crime, especially according to the current standards. “Even if you’re not a lawyer, it’s easy to understand that if you want to partially or destroy a national group, you have several strategies, such as killing them or forcefully changing their identity,” she added.

“Forceful abduction of Ukrainian children is a part of this broader genocidal policy of the Russian state against Ukraine.” The Genocide Convention’s Article II defines genocide as the deliberate act of destroying a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, either wholly or partially. It excludes, however, political groups and what is referred to as ‘cultural genocide’.

Valeriia decides to pursue her dream of studying medicine

In the camp, poor-quality food frequently caused stomach issues, with limited access to medical care. Very small children suffered greatly due to inadequate care and harsh conditions, remembered Valeriia. With their parents or guardians absent, they roamed unsupervised, enduring cold weather without proper clothing. Many fell ill with bronchitis. Outbreaks of diseases like chickenpox and lice were common.

Though the children were allowed to use their phones, there was hardly ever any service. Valeriia just about managed to contact a member of her family, asking to be picked up.

Ukrainians living in the occupied territories are considered “New Russians” by the Russian authorities

According to the Crimean Centre of Civil Education, Alemenda, these kinds of camps restrict the children’s return citing parental political stance. Instances of forced relocation and psychological pressure have been reported, with family members facing obstacles to reuniting with their children, especially when they are pro-Ukraine. When these children express a desire for their parents to visit them, the family members are encouraged to relocate to Russian-controlled territories. Ukrainians living in temporarily occupied territories are seen as “New Russians” by the authorities.

Her family member was therefore able to pick her up, since they lived in occupied territory. After having stayed in the camp for a total of two months, she went to occupied Henichesk in southern Ukraine.

Valeriia travels on her own to Ukraine

Having experienced this dire medical situation in the camp, Valeriia decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. As an orphan from an occupied territory, she leveraged her circumstances in university admissions, and had both Russian and Ukrainian passports. While staying in temporary-occupied Henichesk, she chose a university in Odesa and applied online, as she didn’t want to stay in Russian-controlled and occupied territories.

From occupied Henichesk, Valeriia started her journey by herself on a bus. Passing through various occupied Ukrainian cities, such as the destroyed Melitopol and Mariupol, then crossing into Rostov in Russia.


With a Russian passport, crossing the border was smooth. In the temporary-occupied territories, possession of a Russian passport is essential for proving property ownership and retaining access to healthcare and retirement benefits. Failure to obtain the forced new passport by July 1, as mandated by a new Russian law in occupied territories, may lead to imprisonment as a ‘foreign citizen’, risking custody loss, imprisonment, or worse.

The last border crossing

Continuing through Belgorod and the Sumy region, the journey, facilitated by efficient border crossings, took her a day to complete. At the final border in Sumy, which is still open for pedestrians but entails strict filtering by the Russian guards, Valeriia kept her Ukrainian passport hidden and used her Russian passport to pass the border. Checks were organised in groups from a bus, with passports being collected and Valeriia being questioned about travelling alone underage without a guardian.

Aware of potential risks, she strategically explained her journey, emphasising passing through Ukraine without any intent to stay. Valeriia informed the guards that her sole intention was to traverse Ukraine to pick up her aunt from Europe and bring her back to Russia. She remembered the importance of telling the officials what they needed to hear. At the border, amidst their apprehension, they scrutinised her documents and phone, such as her photos, Telegram messages and E-Mails.

Despite Valeriia’s prior composure, the situation at the border crossing was very overwhelming. Since she had hidden her Ukrainian passport, she wasn’t forced to undergo a lie detector test, and because she was a minor, she couldn’t legally sign any documents. As soldiers with machine guns deliberated among themselves, one guard proposed letting her cross. From the Russian checkpoint, she had to walk through fields to reach Ukrainian territory – and when she did and heard Ukrainian, she was overcome with emotions.

Change of plans?

Her initial plan was to go to Odesa to study medicine, but things didn’t quite go according to plan. Upon her arrival in Sumy, she was given the option to move to Kyiv due to the constant shelling in Odesa at the time. She stayed in Sumy for approximately half a week, during which she underwent thorough medical screenings and tests to ensure her well-being having survived the re-education camp and occupation. 


“Throughout my stay, I was closely monitored by the juvenile police and representatives from Kyiv. Afterwards, accompanied by the juvenile police, I travelled to Kyiv, where I immediately visited the ombudsman’s office”, she told me.

She currently lives in Kyiv, initially staying in a hostel before enrolling in Kyiv Medical College. To maintain a sense of normality, she engages in several activities and attends frequent therapy sessions. “I enjoy learning about medicine and exploring the city of Kyiv. I am grateful to speak Ukrainian and the support of my guardian, Olha, who has become like a parent to me”. 

She met Olha through meetings with a psychotherapist and established a strong bond.

“In her presence, I can embrace my youth and momentarily forget about the responsibilities of adulthood. I appreciate the psychological support I’ve received,” Valeriia added. She is receiving free therapy consultations provided by Voices of Children, which is helping her deal with the things she’s gone through.

What psychological effects do children go through after living in occupation?

Upon returning to Ukraine, the mental state of children is deeply influenced by their experiences during the occupation, says Yulya Tukalenko, a psychologist at the Voices of Children charity foundation. 


“Factors such as the duration of their stay, living conditions, age, and the hardships they endured play significant roles”, she added. Deprivation, particularly in terms of limited social interaction and restricted movement, is a common challenge faced by children. Prolonged exposure to dangerous conditions where speaking Ukrainian or showing support could result in harm, fosters mistrust in others.

According to Tukalenko, the aftermath of such experiences often manifests in various symptoms across behavioural, emotional, and physical domains. These include emotional outbursts, sadness, self-harm, sleep disturbances, and digestive issues. Left untreated, these symptoms can evolve into more serious conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and impaired social functioning. Therefore, a timely intervention by trained professionals is crucial to address and mitigate the long-term effects of occupation on children’s mental health.

Out of nearly 20,000 abducted and displaced children, only 400 have been returned

Since Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, both Ukrainian and international organisations have documented grave human rights violations against children. Reports detail children forcibly deported or displaced by Russian forces, subjected to re-education and forced adoption. 

The Children of War initiative reports that over 19,500 children have been deported or displaced, with fewer than 400 returned. In response, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for President Vladimir Putin and the Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, Maria Lvova-Belova, for child deportation.


“After 2014 and the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, we lost from 15 to 20% of our child population,” said Mykola Kuleba of Save Ukraine, a charitable organisation aiding families and children affected by war. These children encompass those who lost parents to Russian shelling, along with those residing in institutions or under foster care, such as Valeriia, who is an orphan. Russia alleges that these children lack parental care. 

An investigation by the AP reveals Russian officials deported Ukrainian children without consent, convincing them their parents don’t want them any more, exploiting them for propaganda, and placing them with Russian families granting them citizenship.

This process is simplified if the children are already native-Russian speakers. “To resolve the issue of acquisition of Russian citizenship by Ukrainian children, they granted the right to submit a relevant application on behalf of the child to guardians, and heads of institutions for children, including educational and medical ones. The child’s opinion, of course, is not taken into account. Therefore, it is enough to enrol a Ukrainian child in an educational institution or put them in treatment, and the director or the chief doctor has the right to apply for the acquisition of Russian citizenship for the child under a simplified procedure”, explained Kuleba.

“Being in a Ukrainian city feels like a reward, and I deeply appreciate it”

Living in Kyiv means still living under frequent air-raid alerts. There were no air raid alarms, as the shelling was constant when she lived under occupation. “No one bothered to turn on the air-raid warning signal to the Ukrainians under occupation. However, there are still moments of uncertainty in Kyiv. Despite the risks, you have to continue living your life in those moments”, said Valeriia.

For the 17-year-old, a lot has changed in the past couple of years. She added she’s not in contact with any of the kids in her camp who chose Russia – even her former girlfriends and classmates. For her, “being in a Ukrainian city feels like a reward, and I deeply appreciate it.”


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An unspoken pain: Tackling France’s infertility problem

French President Emmanuel Macron this week announced a plan to revive France’s sluggish birth rate and tackle the country’s growing infertility problem. More than three million people in France suffer from what Macron described as “the taboo of the century”, making it one of the country’s biggest public health issues. So why has it never been treated as such? 

Macron promised steps to boost France’s declining birth rate during a televised press conference on Tuesday, calling for a “demographic rearmament” of the country. The call came after France recorded its lowest annual birth rate since World War II, with 678,000 births registered in 2023 – a sharp 6.6 percent drop from the previous year. Despite Macron’s “announcement”, the plan has actually been long in the making, and is part of a bioethics law that the French parliament approved in 2021. 

France has long been proud of its comparatively high birth rate, described as a “French exception” in Europe. But recent trends have undermined the country’s status as the continent’s baby-making champion – and highlighted a growing fertility problem.  

A 2022 report commissioned by the government showed that as many as one in every four French couples who have tried to conceive naturally for 12 months or longer are unable to do so. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines this as infertility – a condition that currently affects as many as 3.3 million people in France. 


Among them is Virginie Rio, the president and co-founder of the infertility support group Collectif Bamp!, which advocates better treatment for infertility. 

After trying but failing to conceive naturally for several years, Rio sought help through Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) and managed to get pregnant. But her long journey was fraught with challenges and mistreatment, not least because of a lack of understanding and compassion from doctors. 

“I was told that women had psychological problems, and that I needed to relax more,” she said, pointing to sexist prejudice surrounding the issue of infertility. “The discourse makes women feel very guilty. They’re made to feel as if it’s their fault that they can’t have children,” Rio explained. 

The underlying causes  

Multiple studies have shown that a woman’s age plays a key role in her ability to conceive. A study published in the Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences in May 2020 showed that a woman under the age of 30 had an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant within a year, while a woman aged 30 had a 75 percent chance. At 35, her chances dropped even further, to 66 percent, and at 40 to 44 percent. 

But these types of statistics are guilt-tripping and hardly show the full picture.

“The stigma that women are the only ones responsible for infertility is deeply rooted in peoples’ minds,” said Élise de La Rochebrochard, a researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). “We shouldn’t reinforce this belief, making women the only ones responsible for reproduction – since it’s also an issue for men,” she said. 

There are many reasons why a growing number women wait until later in life before trying to have a child. Sociologists point to women making up a much larger part of the workforce and to widespread access to contraceptives. Many young adults put their family creation plans on hold as they seek professional and emotional stability, or  wait until they have struck the right work-life balance. But the longer people wait to seek help for an infertility problem, the more difficult it gets for them. 

Medical conditions, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and sperm production disorders, are also to blame for the uptick in infertility rates. 

Read moreFighting endometriosis: ‘I don’t know what it means to be free from pain’

A meta-analysis published in 2017 showed that the average concentration of gametes in sperm had dropped by 50 percent between 1973 and 2011. Several reasons have been cited for the sharp reduction, including smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity, but also the exposure to pollution and endocrine disruptors, which can be found in many plastics and which interfere with the body’s hormones. 

“The decline in sperm quality is a worrying issue, but there’s no need to panic,” said Micheline Misrahi-Abadou, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Paris-Saclay. She said today’s gamete concentration average of 40 to 50 million gametes per millilitre of sperm is still more than enough to impregnate a woman. 

So what are the remedies?  

When medical conditions stand in the way of a pregnancy, hormone treatments can help. In France, Medically Assisted Procreation, or MAP, has been available to all women since 2021 and no longer requires them to fulfil the medical criteria of infertility. But many doctors say hormonal treatments are not always necessary and, in some cases, not even the best route to pregnancy. 

“A part of the three million people who are estimated to suffer from infertility may be due to couples going straight for MAP,” said Misrahi-Abadou, adding that she understood why some do not want to take the risk of waiting to become parents. 

“Infertility is a terrible suffering, and is experienced as a tragedy, especially when the cause is unknown. But MAP can be an additional source of suffering, with an average failure rate of 40 percent,” she said. 

Couples who choose MAP treatment have to undergo a multitude of tests and treatments that can be both expensive and stressful. But infertility is not only a social challenge, it is also a professional one. 

“MAP protocols are often time-consuming and unsuccessful, which can make it difficult for people to reconcile their work with the treatment they are getting,” Rio explained.  

“Employers often expect their employees to be productive and present, but MAP treatments can require taking time off work.”

The authors of the 2022 infertility report recommended better public information, starting from secondary school, as well as targeted consultations in a bid to identify the factors affecting fertility. They also stressed the need to label food products containing phytoestrogens – which can cause infertility problems. Finally, they suggested more training on the issue for doctors and other health professionals. 

Neglected issues  

Meanwhile, researchers are trying to pin down the underlying factors of infertility.

“Identifying the causes of infertility is an essential prerequisite to improve treatments,” said Misrahi-Abadou, adding that genetics is an especially important tool to do so. “Like in all medical specialty fields, it’s possible to use DNA analysis to look for the causes of infertility,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to define a targeted therapy with medication that can act directly,” said Misrahi-Abadou, who heads the first reference laboratory for genetic infertility at the Bicêtre Hospital in Paris.    

The experts interviewed by FRANCE 24 agreed that infertility has not been taken seriously enough in France. They hope Macron’s announcements will be followed up by action.  

“Infertility is still an issue that is mistreated by society, and the people concerned are mistreated too,” said Rio, adding that her advocacy group’s calls for action have long been ignored. Misrahi-Abadou added: “Infertility is not a fatal disease and so it’s considered less serious than other pathologies.”  

Taking Macron’s ambitions into account, does this mean that the “taboo of the century” will now finally be broken in France? The experts are not so sure. “Infertility is a taboo, but it’s not the only reproductive health issue that remains difficult to talk about,” de La Rochebrochard said. “Menstruation and abortion are both topics that are still not talked about enough.” 

Infertility, sterility and reduced fertility are three different concepts.

  • The WHO defines infertility as the inability to conceive after one year or more of regular unprotected sex.  
  • Sterility is the total inability to conceive or impregnate, regardless if the woman or man undergoes treatment. 
  • Reduced fertility is a drop in the number of estimated births per woman. In France, the fertility rate came to 1.68 children per woman last year, compared with 1.79 in 2022, according to the national statistics office INSEE. This can partly be explained by a general drop in the number of women of child-bearing age (between 20 and 40 years old), but also other factors, including lifestyle choices.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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What? You’re calling my kid a simp? | CNN

Editor’s note: After we first published this story in 2021, we received reader feedback about the term’s derivation and use in pop culture. We updated the story to reflect those additional details.


Shannon was used to her socially awkward son being bullied by other boys at the private school he attends.

But when she picked him up from school and he told her he was being called a “simp,” Shannon, who’s only using her first name to protect her son’s identity, didn’t know what to think.

“He’s telling me this and I’m driving and I’m trying to make sense of it,” she said. “I’d never heard the word.”

“He told me, ‘It basically means that I’m just being nice to girls because I like them,’” she said. “I was like, wait, my kid is being picked on for being nice to girls?”

Her son had told her he had recently been put in the “friend zone” by one of the girls, who made it clear she wasn’t interested in dating him. They had continued to be friendly.

“You do all these things as a parent to raise your kid right, to be nice to everyone, especially kids without many friends,” Shannon said. “And you never think that by making your kid the nice one you could be making them a target for bullies.”

Many parents might be unfamiliar with the word “simp,” but chances are your tween or teen has used or at least heard the term.

Simp hashtags are rampant on TikTok. Instagram has more 600,000 posts tagged #simp, and there are Facebook groups devoted to simps and simping. (It can be a verb, too.)

Depending on whom you talk to, there is some debate on the word’s usage and how much (if at all) it has evolved over time. While simp’s origins are connected to the word “simpleton,” its current usage is linked to West Coast American rappers such as Too Short, who first used it in the mid-1980s in a way that denotes the opposite of “pimp” in his song “Pimpology.”

In 1992, Boyz II Men released a song called “Sympin’ Ain’t Easy,” offering a different spelling of the word and evoking frustrated yearning.

Urban Dictionary’s top definition of a simp is “someone who does way too much for a person they like.” Other definitions on the crowdsourced online dictionary include “a guy that is overly desperate for women, especially if she is a bad person, or has expressed her disinterest in him whom which he continues to obsess over.”

“‘Simp’ is slang for a person (typically a man) who is desperate for the attention and affection of someone else (typically a woman),” said Connor Howlett, then a digital strategist in New York City in 2021, in an email to CNN.

“Think the energy of puppy dog eyes but manifested in a romantic, human form,” Howlett said. “It’s used in an insulting manner. Though typically playful, there are definitely undertones of toxic masculinity since it’s related to showing too much emotion.”

Karen McClung first encountered the word in group chats she closely monitors with her daughter and son.

“I saw the word and quickly looked it up,” McClung said. “I asked my kids what they thought it meant and my son said, ‘It’s basically if you had $1,000 and you could do anything with it, you’d use it to get the attention of a girl — then everyone would make fun of you.”

“I blocked the thread,” she said.

McClung said her son wasn’t being called a simp in the thread, but she said she’s “curious to see how it impacts my son because he’s very chivalrous by nature.”

A word that emerged into Generation Z vernacular from social media usage, as simp is thought to have arrived, is bound to get muddled and continue to evolve.

And simp can have different contexts depending on the age group using it, said Laura Capinas, a clinical social worker in Sonoma County, California.

“Depending on if it’s a middle schooler or a high schooler using it, it could be different,” she said, and it’s not just boys talking about simps and simping either.

“Girls in high school sometimes throw out the term to their high school girlfriends,” Capinas said. “Some kids I’ve talked to have said it’s not a derogatory term. It’s sort of like teasing someone, like ‘You’ve left us to go hang out with your friends, you’re simping us.’”

“If you have someone saying it who’s used to being a bully, it will be received as a bully comment,” she said.

She hasn’t heard kids or parents in her practice be overly concerned about the word, but Capinas often hears kids use it in describing their day or their peer groups.

Myra Fortson said she has discussed the word with her daughter and thinks such words often “spread more quickly than their meaning.”

“Kids will also own their language by refusing to go back to its original meaning,” said the mother of three. “They will say things like, ‘Maybe that’s where it comes from, but it doesn’t mean that anymore.’ And they keep using the term the way they want.”

One way to think of a simp, said Sean Davis, a marriage and family therapist in California, is “simply someone who is ahead of their time.”

“Though it hurts in the moment, in the big picture, a boy who is called a ‘simp’ can wear it as a badge of honor,” Davis said.

“Today’s boys are being raised in the middle of the biggest redefinition of male gender roles in recent history,” Davis said. “Should I be kind and sensitive or distant and aloof when trying to win a partner over?”

As with all bullying, teens and tweens should first tell their parents or a trusted adult who may be able to intervene on their behalf, he said. “Otherwise, simply owning it and refusing to be ashamed can help.”

It’s important for parents to remember that there have always been slang terms to navigate for kids and parents alike, Capinas said, and the goal is to “make sure it’s being received in a playful manner and used playfully.”

“I think we are always looking to stop our kids from being hurt,” she said. “We don’t like language that’s slang and has potential for negative connotation.”

One tactic she teaches kids in her therapy sessions, she said, is the “humor tool.”

“It’s comic relief. You practice not putting down the other person, you put down the situation,” she said.

If someone is being called out for always “simping the girls,” Capinas said, “he could turn it around and say, ‘It’s tough being the lone soldier simp nice guy, who wants to join me?’”

“You can turn it and make it into comedy,” she said.

Davis pointed to a similar approach.

“Telling the bully, ‘That’s right,’ while holding your head up high and walking away can help, as bullies usually give up if they don’t succeed in tearing the other person down,” he said. “And you can tell yourself that being bullied is simply the price a revolutionary has to pay for standing up for what’s right.”

Shannon said her son’s therapist advised similar tactics, but the boy said he only comes up with the perfect retort three hours later.

“It’s just been really heartbreaking, especially because I know a lot of these boys bullying him. He’s been at the school since second grade,” Shannon said. “If their moms knew, they’d be horrified. But my son doesn’t want me to tell them because it will just get worse.”

This story was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated.

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Avaaz campaigner: ‘Neither Hamas nor Fatah can claim to represent the Palestinian people’

from our special correspondent in Ramallah – Two weeks into the Israel-Hamas war, Fadi Quran, campaigns director for Avaaz, an NGO coordinating activists worldwide, is calling for a ceasefire in the interest of children on both sides.

More than 4,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have died since the unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, and at least 212 people are still being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. As the death toll climbs on both sides, UN agencies and other NGOs are calling for a ceasefire.

Quran speaks to FRANCE 24 in his residence in Ramallah about the despair of the Palestinian people caught in the conflict, and implores civil societies on both sides to pressure their governments to work for peace and spare the lives of children.

FRANCE 24: How do the people of the West Bank feel about the war in Gaza?

Quran: For many Palestinians, living in the West Bank every day is an experience of torture. We watch children being killed in Gaza – one child every 15 minutes. Imagine that you lived in Marseille, France, and you were watching TV for two weeks, seeing such images. Now, every 15 minutes, a child is pulled from under the rubble. People are in deep pain and they are trying to figure out what to do.

Many Palestinians have gone out to protest against this war, and many of them have been arrested over the last two weeks. Israel has also arrested over 4,000 Palestinians from across the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, which is working with Israel, has also arrested dozens of people… 

Many of us have friends in Gaza. I was speaking to a friend this morning and he was telling me how he’s bringing water from the Mediterranean sea and boiling it, and then waiting for it to cool down without the salt so that he can give that water to his three-year-old child and his wife. They don’t have any more [fresh] water left where they live, because Israel has blockaded [the Gaza Strip].

That is the situation today. And for many Palestinians, what we’re beginning to do in the West Bank is to call for the replacement of the current Palestinian leadership, because we feel that they are betraying the cause by not doing enough to support the people in Gaza. But the truth is, I think many Palestinians, not just here but across the world, are staying at home, watching TV in tears.

What do you mean by replacement?

Our goal is to hold democratic elections for Palestinians across the world, to choose leaders who are capable of liberating us. The truth today is [that] neither Hamas nor Fatah can claim that they represent the Palestinian people, because we have not had elections for over 15 years. While Israel has banned Palestinians from voting in elections, the Palestinian Authority cooperates to make sure they never happen.

Many Gazans are stranded in Ramallah or elsewhere in the West Bank. What are their living conditions like?

Both my mother and sister are clinical psychologists, and they’ve been working with families from Gaza who are now here. According to what they report to me and the stories I’ve heard myself, it’s just complete and total depression, a complete and total sense of helplessness, panic attacks.

For example, a man called Mohammed from Gaza who was working in the West Bank got stuck here. He was talking to his wife and children when the phone got cut off and he hasn’t been able to reach them for ten days now. He was begging and crying: “I just want to go home. I just want to find my wife. I want to find my children.” He tried contacting his parents. They initially answered and then again disappeared. He can’t speak to them.

That is the story of hundreds of Gazans, fathers, mothers, and grandparents that are just unable to speak to their loved ones. It is heartbreaking.

How do you see the situation developing?

I’ve been speaking as part of my work in international advocacy to diplomats across key countries, including countries in the EU. [According to them,] Israel has forecast the deaths of 25 to 35,000 Palestinians. That alone is a terrifying number. They’re also estimating that 10 to 15% of Gaza’s population will be permanently displaced. We’re talking about 300 to 400,000 people becoming refugees for the third time in their lives. It seems like we’re going to face another catastrophe [of] ethnic cleansing, genocide. That is what the Israeli government is moving towards.

Read moreExperts say Hamas and Israel are breaking international law, but what does that mean?

Now there is another scenario. It’s the less likely one – but the one that we should all be fighting for – which is a proposal now being put on the table where Israel would be asked to release the 170 children that it holds in military prisons. In return, Hamas would release the children and their guardians held as hostages since October 7 and create a humanitarian corridor and safe areas for children in Gaza.

That is the scenario that President Macron, Biden and the international community should be pushing for. Instead of pushing for a solution that saves Jewish and Palestinian lives, they’re supporting Israel’s warmongering. That war is not only going to take tens of thousands of my people’s lives. It will also keep Netanyahu in power, but it won’t achieve security for the Jewish people. So even though the scenario of a ceasefire for children is the less likely one, if people raise their voices, it will become the only path forward. Otherwise, we’re looking at a war that is going to devastate us all.

Is the ceasefire for children feasible on the Israeli side?

This proposal for ceasefire for children is not being discussed in Israel. But we just did a poll with Israeli institutes which showed us that 57% of Israelis would support the proposal I just mentioned. Now, the government doesn’t support it, but this is why now we’re speaking with Israeli civil society organisations and even trying to reach out to the families of the hostages, so that they push their government to move away from war and towards the solution. I think we have less than a week to make this solution a reality before we face another catastrophe as Palestinians.

What do you expect from the international community?

This could be a moment that makes any solution for freedom, justice and dignity – and the opportunity to end the apartheid that the Palestinian people face – more impossible and take longer. Or, it can be a moment for a paradigm shift. And for us as Palestinians, we’re doing what we can to protect ourselves and create that path for freedom and dignity for both sides. But if people across France, the people across the United States and people across the United Kingdom don’t organise as well to stop this war, then it will not be stopped. So there is a responsibility, and one that the French and France’s leadership, are not taking seriously: putting an end to this violence.

So I call on the French people to act now because peace for us is also peace for the world.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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International school meal initiative wins 2023 Princess Asturias award

Mary’s Meals is a non-profit organization based in the little Scottish town of Dalmally. Operating in 18 countries, Mary’s Meals’ main objective is to provide daily meals to school children. This year, the initiative won the Princess of Asturias Concord Award for its work and we went to meet them.


I’m Charlotte Lam, here in Oviedo  Spain, for the 2023 Princess of Asturias Awards.

Today we’re talking to the winners in the ‘Concord’ categoryMary’s Meals, a non-profit organization based in the little Scottish town of Dalmally but the founder’s big heart, means it has an even bigger reach.  

Mary’s Meals’ main objective is to provide daily meals to school children. It operates in eighteen of the poorest countries in the world.

Joining me now are two of Mary’s Meals African directors – Amina Iddy Swedi, from Kenya and Panji Chipson Kajani, from Zambia.

Welcome to Euronews. First of all, congratulations. How does it feel to be recognised for such a prestigious award here in Spain?

Panji Chipson Kajani Mary’s Meals Zambia Director: At Mary’s Meals, we feel very honoured and we are humbled to be recognised for the Concord Award. We don’t take it for granted, it’s because of all of the support we get from all over the world, from different types of people.

Amina Iddy Swedi, Mary’s Meals Kenya Director: Just to add to what Panji said, I am also excited. The word concord means bringing people together and when you look at the model of Mary’s Meals, we work with communities and volunteers so I’m so excited because it is aligned with the name ‘concord’. I am glad to be here.

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: Now, the origins story of Mary’s is quite remarkable.CEO Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was moved by what he saw unfolding in Bosnia in the 90s so he collected aid with his brother and they delivered it themselves to Bosnia. I want to know, what drew you to Mary’s and this line of work?

Amina Iddy Swedi, Mary’s Meals Kenya Director: Mary’s Meals has a very clear vision which is to provide one meal at a place of education. Normally when I am asked that question, I turn it around and say ‘What has made me stay after all these years?’ Where I am working at the moment in Kenya, it is a place that has been marginalised for many years. I’ve been able to see the impact in real time, since 2018 when we started in that particular region to now, so I’m really honoured to be with Mary’s Meals.

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: And you, Panji?

Panji Chipson Kajani Mary’s Meals Zambia Director: By training, I am an educator, so I get inspired always when there are interventions that want to bring education to the children. I am also Malawian by origin and Mary’s Meals school feeding started in Malawi and I saw the benefits firsthand. Also, this is one of the few interventions in the world whose results can be seen almost instantly and that has kept me going for the past 12 years.

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: Well speaking of results, the awards ceremony has recognised Mary’s Meals for its “innovative and effective operating model that allows for optimal use of resources”. Talk me through, what makes this non-profit’s model different to others.

Amina Iddy Swedi, Mary’s Meals Kenya Director: We pride ourselves in anchoring everything we do in community participation, which turns into, community ownership. I would like to state a good example of the recent year 2020, when COVID happened, all the schools had been locked down, right, and so we´re working in very marginalised communities and we knew that when we came back after COVID, we’d be coming back to a dead community. So we were a bit conflicted about how we would be able to go forward. So, what happened is that we partnered with the community. They were the ones who came up with a model that allowed us to continue to feed while the children were at home.

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: Well, that brings me to my next question. Panji, it’s been a tough couple of years globally. We know high levels of inflation and increased costs of living are contributing to worldwide hunger. How have recent global events, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, changed or impacted the mission of Mary’s Meals?

Panji Chipson Kajani Mary’s Meals Zambia Director: Fortunately because of the low-cost model we use and the good stewardship we have applied to the resources that we get, even though there has been this turbulence in the global economy, people still trusted us and because they still trust us, they still come forward with these little gifts and when we get them, we are still able to give our promise to the children. So, we are so grateful to people from all over the world for still trusting us even with the turbulence in the economy globally

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: The plight of food insecurity is increasing around the world. Even as we speak, there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East, so I want to know about the future of Mary’s Meals.

Amina Iddy Swedi, Mary’s Meals Kenya Director: Right now, in this space that we’re in, I’m glad you mentioned that. Crises and inflation are happening and our priority at Mary’s Meals is to keep the promise to the children we currently feed so we try and do that as much as possible. So for example, this year we experienced high inflation in food but our focus has been to keep the promise to these children. Our focus is also to grow, but our priority is to keep our promise to the children we currently feed at the moment.

Panji Chipson Kajani Mary’s Meals Zambia Director: So just to add to what Amina says, Mary’s Meals is a needs-focused programme. We recognise that there are a lot of children in need of food out there and because of that, we have to have a robust way of targeting so we can reach the most vulnerable. We believe that at the moment, we are reaching the most vulnerable. Because we want to reach the most vulnerable, we are continuously assessing and reassessing so, if there are opportunities and there are resources, indeed, we should reach those in need, like the situation we are talking about in Gaza. We do not have immediate plans to go there now but we are monitoring the situation very, very closely.


Charlotte Lam, Euronews: My last question is: with global issues like world hunger, there can be fatigue among those who aren’t directly impacted. They know it exists but not necessarily in their sphere. So does Mary’s Meals and how do you both individually, keep it at the forefront of the wider public’s mind?

Amina Iddy Swedi, Mary’s Meals Kenya Director: Our fundraising structure focuses on the grassroots people so individual donors like you and I, and we’ve seen sustainability in that as opposed to focusing mostly on institutional donors. We’ve seen that they get fatigued pretty quickly. So we have seen that our model of fundraising, really sees to it that we can be able to continue to inspire and you know, there is limited donor fatigue when you look at it that way.

Panji Chipson Kajani Mary’s Meals Zambia Director: The journey starts with one step but can end with thousands of miles. So what we desire is that we share this story. The story of joy, the story of joy that comes with school feeding. Feeding plus education is equal to hope and when we share that story, we create disciples like yourself and you go and create disciples like us. By continuously doing that, we are reinvigorating each other now and again to deal with the problem of fatigue.

Charlotte Lam, Euronews: And what a note to end on, Mary’s Meals African directors, Amina Iddy Swedi and Panji Chipson Kajani, congratulations once again and thank you so much for joining me on Euronews.

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Extreme Heat Threatens Student Health in Schools without Air-Conditioning

CLIMATEWIRE | Hundreds of thousands of students will return this month to public schools without air conditioning amid stifling temperatures.

Box fans will thrum over teachers’ voices. School nurses will apply wet towels to flushed foreheads. And hallways will be heavy with hot air.

Yet as extreme heat affects more students and disrupts more school days, government spending to keep kids cool remains woefully inadequate, experts say, allowing an underreported health crisis to fester in school districts across the country.

The Biden administration is trying to close the funding gap through a half-billion dollars in grants from the 2021 infrastructure law. But for a problem of this scale, it’s a drop in the bucket.

“Some [schools] are adding venting and cooling systems for the first time and are just in desperate need,” Sarah Zaleski, schools and nonprofit program manager at the Department of Energy, said in an interview this month. “Some have relied on more passive systems like opening windows. That just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

In June, DOE awarded the first tranche of grants through its Renew America’s Schools program to help schools prepare for a warming climate through energy retrofits and upgrades, including for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The department intended to cap first-round funding at $80 million, officials said. But when more than 1,000 letters of interest seeking $5.5 billion in funding poured into the program office, officials increased the allocation to $178 million, enough for 24 energy infrastructure projects in schools from Texas to Alaska. Nearly 90 percent of districts asked for assistance for HVAC upgrades, according to program officials.

The federal government does not keep official tallies of schools that lack air conditioning, but the Government Accountability Office in 2020 reported that roughly 36,000 buildings in 41 percent of all public school districts “are in immediate need of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades.”

One school in Rhode Island “had components of their operating HVAC systems that were nearly 100 years old,” the GAO stated. Yet few local school boards in financially strapped districts can afford to upgrade old mechanical systems.

‘Not a lick of insulation’

Exhibit A is Mosier Community School in rural Mosier, Ore.

The public charter school, built in 1920 and located about 70 miles east of Portland, educates roughly 200 students in a picture-postcard building overlooking a bend of the Columbia River.

It’s also a heat trap.

“It has not a lick of insulation, it has no air conditioning or proper ventilation system, it has its original single-pane, wood-trimmed windows, and it’s heated by an oil-fired boiler,” said Brent Foster, the volunteer project manager for what will be the largest building renovation in Mosier’s history. “But it’s a good-looking school. It has good bones.”

The school will receive $868,000 in federal money to help for two high-efficiency heat pumps for cooling and heating, in addition to new insulation, double-pane windows and LED lighting.

The project also will include a 112-kilowatt rooftop solar system with battery backup and four electric vehicle charging stations.

Foster called the federal aid a lifesaver for a rural school “that had zero funds” to take on a project of this scale. “There’s no way anyone would rebuild this school,” he said. “It’s a game changer for us.”

The same is true for a school in Natick, Mass., a 36,000-person city 22 miles west of Boston, where “staff and students have suffered heat stroke and other heat-related illness due to the lack of centralized air-conditioning during high degree days,” according to a summary of the $2 million grant.

Under the program, Natick will fully electrify an elementary school, install a heat pump system and replace aging rooftop air conditioning units. The community will supplement the federal grant with $627,000 of its own money.

‘Real trouble’

Even with dramatic boosts in funding for upgrades, the risk of heat-related illness at schools will increase as heat domes become more frequent, according to public health studies.

A 2018 research paper by the Harvard Kennedy School found that in schools without air conditioning, every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature reduces learning over a school year by 1 percent. Other studies have linked high-heat exposure to serious illness in children, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Joseph Allen, director of the Harvard Healthy Buildings Program, said the problem has been exacerbated by decades of neglect in maintaining and upgrading cooling systems in schools.

“The climate crisis is here right now, and our school buildings are not up to the task,” Allen said in an interview. “I think what’s going to happen is that the schools that don’t get on this now are gonna be in real trouble soon. Without some kind of cooling, it’s going to be impossible to have kids and teachers in a classroom in June.”

In larger cities, the cost of making comprehensive improvements to schooling systems can be astronomical.

Several urban school districts in the South, where August and September heat can be brutal, received grants of as much as $15 million to replace old air conditioning systems.

The Jefferson County School District in Birmingham, Ala., will spend $15 million in federal funds to replace HVAC units and thermostats, reduce energy consumption, lower power costs, and provide air-quality improvements in seven school buildings

In Memphis, Tenn., the 437-student Riverview Elementary/Middle School, located on the city’s southwest side in a DOE-designated disadvantaged community, received $9.5 million to make upgrades to HVAC systems as well as install new windows, improve its boiler plant and add a solar array.

“This grant empowers us to enhance our curriculum, invest in cutting-edge technology, and provide our educators with the necessary resources to continue fostering a love for learning,” said Althea Greene, the school board chair for Memphis-Shelby County Schools, in a statement.

Experts say the investments meet two goals: improve classroom teaching and learning, particularly for younger children at critical stages of educational development, and improve the quality of life in communities that have experienced decades of school deterioration and disinvestment.

“I think it’s inevitable this problem will get worse,” Krista Egger, vice president of the Building Resilient Futures program at the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, said in an interview.

“If not this year, maybe next year or the year after that, many school districts will have to install air conditioning as a public health measure.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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Nearly two years after Texas’ six-week abortion ban, more infants are dying | CNN


Texas’ abortion restrictions – some of the strictest in the country – may be fueling a sudden spike in infant mortality as women are forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term.

Some 2,200 infants died in Texas in 2022 – an increase of 227 deaths, or 11.5%, over the previous year, according to preliminary infant mortality data CNN obtained through a public records request. Infant deaths caused by severe genetic and birth defects rose by 21.6%. That spike reversed a nearly decade-long decline. Between 2014 and 2021, infant deaths had fallen by nearly 15%.

In 2021, Texas banned abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. When the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights the following summer, a trigger law in the state banned all abortions other than those intended to protect the life of the mother.

The increase in deaths could partly be explained by the fact that more babies are being born in Texas. One recent report found that in the final nine months of 2022, the state saw nearly 10,000 more births than expected prior to its abortion ban – an estimated 3% increase.

But multiple obstetrician-gynecologists who focus on high-risk pregnancies told CNN that Texas’ strict abortion laws likely contributed to the uptick in infant deaths.

“We all knew the infant mortality rate would go up, because many of these terminations were for pregnancies that don’t turn into healthy normal kids,” said Dr. Erika Werner, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center. “It’s exactly what we all were concerned about.”

The issue of forcing women to carry out terminal and often high-risk pregnancies is at the core of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, with several women – who suffered difficult pregnancies or infant deaths shortly after giving birth – testifying in Travis County court this week.

Prior to the recent abortion restrictions, Texas banned the procedure after 20 weeks. This law gave parents more time to learn crucial information about a fetus’s brain formation and organ development, which doctors begin to test for at around 15 weeks.

Samantha Casiano, a plaintiff in the suit filed against Texas, wished she’d had more time to make the decision.

“If I was able to get the abortion with that time, I think it would have meant a lot to me because my daughter wouldn’t have suffered,” Casiano said.

When Casiano was 20 weeks pregnant, a routine scan came back with devastating news: Her baby would be stillborn or die shortly after birth.

The fetus had anencephaly, a rare birth defect that keeps the brain and skull from developing during pregnancy. Babies with this condition are often stillborn, though they sometimes live a few hours or days. Many women around the country who face the prospect choose abortion, two obstetrician-gynecologists told CNN.

But Casiano lived in Texas, where state legislators had recently banned most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. She couldn’t afford to travel out of the state for the procedure.

“You have no options. You will have to go through with your pregnancy,” Casiano’s doctor told her, she claimed in the lawsuit.

In March, Casiano gave birth to her daughter Halo. After gasping for air for four hours, the baby died, Casiano said during her testimony on Wednesday.

“All she could do was fight to try to get air. I had to watch my daughter go from being pink to red to purple. From being warm to cold,” said Casiano. “I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this had to happen to you.”

Casiano and 14 others – including two doctors – are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They allege the abortion ban has denied them or their patients access to necessary obstetrical care. The plaintiffs are asking the courts to clarify when doctors can make medical exceptions to the state’s ban.

Casiano and two other plaintiffs testified Wednesday about hoping to deliver healthy babies but instead learning their lives or pregnancies were in danger.

 Plaintiffs Anna Zargarian, Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, and Amanda Zurawski at the Texas State Capitol after filing a lawsuit on behalf of Texans harmed by the state's abortion ban on March 7 in Austin, Texas.

“This was just supposed to be a scan day,” Casiano told the court. “It escalated to me finding out my daughter was going to die.”

Lawyers representing the state argued Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ doctors were to blame, saying they misinterpreted the law and failed to provide adequate care for such high-risk pregnancies.

“Plaintiffs will not and cannot provide any evidence of any medical provider in the state of Texas being prosecuted or otherwise penalized for performance of an abortion using the emergency medical exemption,” a lawyer said during the state’s opening statement.

Kylie Beaton, another plaintiff, also had to watch her baby die. Beaton, who didn’t testify this week, learned during a 20-week scan that something was wrong with her baby’s brain, according to the suit.

The doctor diagnosed the fetus with alobar holoprosencephaly, a condition where the two hemispheres of the brain don’t properly divide. Babies with this condition are often stillborn or die soon after birth.

Beaton’s doctor told her he couldn’t provide an abortion unless she was severely ill, or the fetus’s heart stopped. Beaton and her husband sought to obtain an abortion out of state. However, the fetus’s head was enlarged due to its condition, and the only clinic that would perform an abortion charged up to $15,000. Beaton and her husband couldn’t afford it.

Instead, Beaton gave birth to a son she named Grant. The baby cried constantly, wouldn’t eat, and couldn’t be held upright for fear it would put too much pressure on his head, according to the suit. Four days later, Grant died.

Amanda Zurawski of Austin, Texas, center, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Experts say that abortion bans in states like Texas lead to increased risk for both babies and mothers.

Maternal mortality has long been a top concern for doctors and health-rights activists. Even before the Supreme Court decision, the United States had the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations, one study found.

Amanda Zurawski, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, testified Wednesday that her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, putting her at high risk for a life-threatening infection. Zurawski’s baby likely wouldn’t survive.

But the fetus still had a heartbeat, and so doctors said they were unable to terminate the pregnancy. She received an emergency abortion only after her condition worsened and she went into septic shock.

Zurawski described during Wednesday’s hearing how her family visited the hospital, fearing it would be the last time they would see her. Zurawski has argued that had she been able to obtain an abortion, her life wouldn’t have been in jeopardy in the same way.

“I blame the people who support these bans,” Zurawski said.

Zurawski previously said the language in Texas’ abortion laws is “incredibly vague, and it leaves doctors grappling with what they can and cannot do, what health care they can and cannot provide.”

Pregnancy is dangerous, and forcing a woman to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term is unnecessarily risky when it’s clear the baby will not survive, argued Dr. Mae-Lan Winchester, an Ohio maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

“Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous things a person will ever go through,” Winchester said. “Putting yourself through that risk without any benefit of taking a baby home at the end, it’s … risking maternal morbidity and mortality for nothing.”

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Texas woman almost dies because she couldn’t get an abortion | CNN


Another woman has come forward with the harrowing details of how the Supreme Court’s decision four months ago to overturn Roe v. Wade put her life in danger.

CNN has told the stories of several women – including one from Houston, one from central Texas and one from Cleveland – and what they had to do to obtain medically necessary abortions.

Now, a woman from Austin, Texas, has come forward because she nearly died when she couldn’t get a timely abortion.

This is her story.

Amanda Eid and Josh Zurawski, both now 35, met in 1991 at Aldersgate Academy preschool in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and dated in high school.

“Josh always tells me he’s been in love with me since we were 4 years old,” Amanda said.

Three years ago, they married in Austin, Texas, where they both work in high-tech jobs.

They tried to have a family but failed. Amanda had fertility treatments for a year and a half and finally became pregnant.

“Very excited to share that Baby Zurawski is expected in late January,” Amanda shared on Instagram in July. The post included a picture of her and her husband in “Mama” and “Dad” hats, Amanda holding a strip of ultrasound photos of their baby girl.

“The fact that we were pregnant at all was a miracle, and we were beside ourselves with happiness,” she said.

But then, 18 weeks – just four months – into her pregnancy, Amanda’s water broke.

The amniotic fluid that her baby depended upon was leaking out. She says her doctor told her the baby would not survive.

“We found out that we were going to lose our baby,” Amanda said. “My cervix was dilating fully 22 weeks prematurely, and I was inevitably going to miscarry.”

She and Josh begged the doctor to see if there was any way to save the baby.

“I just kept asking, ‘isn’t there anything we can do?’ And the answer was ‘no,’ ” Amanda said.

When a woman’s water breaks, she’s at high risk for a life-threatening infection. While Amanda and Josh’s baby – they named her Willow – was sure to die, she still had a heartbeat, and so doctors said that under Texas law, they were unable to terminate the pregnancy.

“My doctor said, ‘Well, right now we just have to wait, because we can’t induce labor, even though you’re 100% for sure going to lose your baby,’ ” Amanda said. “[The doctors] were unable to do their own jobs because of the way that the laws are written in Texas.”

Texas law allows for abortion if the mother “has a life-threatening physical condition aggravated, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

But Texas lawmakers haven’t spelled out exactly what that means, and a doctor found to be in violation of the law can face loss of their medical license and a possible life sentence in prison.

“They’re extremely vague,” said Katie Keith, director of the Health Policy and Law Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center. “They don’t spell out exactly the situations when an abortion can be provided.”

In September, CNN reached out to 28 Texas legislators who sponsored anti-abortion legislation, asking them for their response to CNN stories about the woman in Houston and the woman in central Texas.

Only one legislator responded.

“Like any other law, there are unintended consequences. We do not want to see any unintended consequences; if we do, it is our responsibility as legislators to fix those flaws,” wrote state Sen. Eddie Lucio, who will be leaving the Senate at the end of the year.

The Zurawskis participated in an ad for Beto O’Rourke’s unsuccessful Texas gubernatorial campaign.

After her water broke, Amanda’s doctors sent her home and told her to watch for signs of infection, and that only when she was “considered sick enough that my life was at risk” would they terminate the pregnancy, Amanda said.

“My doctor said it could take hours, it could take days, it could take weeks,” she remembers.

Once they heard “hours,” they decided there was no time to travel to another state for an abortion.

“The nearest ‘sanctuary’ state is at least an eight-hour drive,” Amanda wrote in an online essay on The Meteor. “Developing sepsis – which can kill quickly – in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence.”

So they waited it out in Texas.

On August 26, three days after her water broke, Amanda found herself shivering in the Texas heat.

“We were having a heat wave, I think it was 105 degrees that day, and I was freezing cold, and I was shaking, my teeth were chattering. I was trying to tell Josh that I didn’t feel good, and my teeth were chattering so hard that I could not even get the sentence out,” she said.

Josh was shocked by his wife’s condition.

“To see in a matter of maybe five minutes, for her to go from a normal temperature to the condition she was in was really, really scary,” he said. “Very quickly, she went downhill very, very fast. She was in a state I’ve never seen her in.”

Josh rushed his wife to the hospital. Her temperature was 102 degrees. She was too weak to walk on her own.

Her temperature went up to 103 degrees. Finally, Amanda was sick enough that the doctors felt legally safe to terminate the pregnancy, she said.

But Amanda was so sick that antibiotics wouldn’t stop the bacterial infection raging through her body. A blood transfusion didn’t cure her, either.

About 12 hours after her pregnancy was terminated, doctors and nurses flooded her room.

“There’s a lot of commotion, and I said, ‘what’s going on?’ and they said, ‘we’re moving you to the ICU,’ and I said, ‘why?’ and they said, ‘you’re developing symptoms of sepsis,’ ” she said.

Sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection, is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Amanda’s blood pressure plummeted. Her platelets dropped. She doesn’t remember much from that time.

But Josh does.

“It was really scary to see Amanda crash,” he said. “I was really scared I was going to lose her.”

Family members flew in from across the country because they feared it would be the last time they would see Amanda.

Doctors inserted an intravenous line near her heart to deliver antibiotics and medication to stabilize her blood pressure. Finally, Amanda turned the corner and survived.

But her medical ordeal isn’t over.

Amanda’s uterus suffered scarring from the infection, and she may not be able to have more children. She had a surgery recently to fix the scarring, but it’s unclear whether it will be successful.

That leaves the Zurawskis scared – and furious that they might never have a family because of a Texas law.

“[This] didn’t have to happen,” Amanda said. “That’s what’s so infuriating about all of this, is that we didn’t have to – we shouldn’t have had to – go through all of this trauma.”

The Zurawskis say the politicians who voted for the anti-abortion law call themselves “pro-life” – but they don’t see it that way.

“Amanda almost died. That’s not pro-life. Amanda will have challenges in the future having more kids. That’s not pro-life,” Josh said.

“Nothing about [this] feels pro-life,” his wife added.

In many ways, Amanda feels fortunate. She wonders whether she’d be alive today if it weren’t for her husband, who rushed her to the hospital and made sure she got the best care possible. And they have good jobs with good health insurance and they live in a big city with high quality health care.

“All of these things I had going for me, and still, this was the outcome,” she said.

She and Josh worry about women in rural areas, or poor women, or young, single mothers in states like Texas. What would happen to them, considering what happened to Amanda?

“These barbaric laws prevented her from getting any amount of health care when she needed it, until it was at a life-threatening moment,” Josh said.

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‘It takes a village’: The price we pay to keep our kids in sport

For Sarah McGovern, keeping her kids in sport is crucial, but also overwhelming.

“This year’s soccer registration was two weeks earlier than usual. We were going to pay the rates, but I put them off and thought, they can just be late,” she says.

For both boys, MiniRoos registration fees are $300 — but they also need to fork out for boots (kids’ feet grow fast), shin pads and uniform kits each season.

It’s a long drive to buy new gear, so when she’s not teaching at the nearby preschool, Sarah often spends her time hunting for second-hand items closer to home.

“I keep an eye out on buy, swap and sell Facebook pages. The club doesn’t offer subsidies, and they don’t have second-hand soccer boots,” Sarah says.

“It might not seem like a lot to other people, but we’ve got to plan for these things.”

Jasper (left) and his big brother Charlie have developed friendships, fancy footwork and lifelong skills.()

Living on a lower income in a regional NSW town, there’s the added fuel costs to get to training and game day.

Summer swimming lessons also impact the budget, but it means the kids are safe around water, where their dad, Aaron works long hours as a skipper.

For Jasper, 6, and Charlie, 8, who are both autistic and have ADHD, playing soccer means everything to them.

Sarah says it’s worth every cent to see them develop lifelong skills and self-confidence.  

And with Jasper being offered a spot on the representative team next year, they’re still figuring out whether they can afford to travel to training twice a week and pay for the higher soccer fees.

For now, the family manages to scrape by.

But not all families can prioritise sport

Recent data from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) AusPlay survey reveals that the cost of sport in Australia — as well as time commitments — are two of the most common reasons why many kids across the country aren’t participating.

It shows 43 per cent of children aged 14 and under participated in out-of-school organised sports activities at least once a week. 

And children were less likely to participate if they were from a low-income family, lived in a remote or regional area, or spoke a language other than English at home.

It also shows families on average spend $600 per child last year on sport, compared to $520 in 2019.

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Life on the margins: The fate of Ukraine’s forcibly deported children

In the first instalment of this two-part series, Euronews examines NGO Save Ukraine’s efforts to locate and retrieve Ukrainian minors forcibly deported to Russia while the war rages on.

Approximately 19,505 children have been abducted or forcibly deported to Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, according to Ukraine’s National Information Bureau.

However, officials fear that the real figure is actually much higher as deported Ukrainian orphans have little means to declare themselves missing or make contact with relatives in Ukraine.

The Russian Federation argues some 744,000 children from Ukraine are now living in Russia or Russian-held territory. The Kremlin claims these transfers are part of evacuation measures to ensure the safety of Ukrainian minors living in frontline areas. But, there is mounting evidence to support the notion that Ukrainian children have been deported, re-educated, and adopted by Russian families. The European Parliament considers the removal of children from their families or from care facilities an act of violence.

On 17 March, in a historic move, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for the unlawful deportation of children from Ukrainian territory to Russia, a crime the ICC said Putin is ‘allegedly responsible’ for.

Putin could now be arrested in 123 countries party to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Days later, Russia’s top investigative committee opened a criminal case against the ICC prosecutor and the judges involved.

Do missing Ukrainian children ever come home?

On Friday, 2 June, representatives for the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and Ukraine met in Stockholm for a high-level meeting on deported children and reforming Ukraine’s child protection system. 

“I am really grateful to the European community and all the organisations who are desperately trying to bring all of our children home. 300 children are already at home… but also we must not stop working for the rights of those children who are in Ukraine now and in different European countries,” Oksana Zholnovych, the Ukrainian Minister for Social Policy, said.

There are several NGOs and state-run organisations working to locate forcibly deported Ukrainian children and reunite them with their families, as well as providing essential support to internally displaced Ukrainian children.

Save Ukraine is a charitable collective that coordinates dozens of companies, volunteers, and entities to provide aid and housing and also helps evacuate Ukrainians from war zones. It is the only public organisation that regularly conducts rescue missions in Russia.

Olga Yerokhina, a press officer from Save Ukraine, told Euronews that armed Russian soldiers regularly visit homes in Russian-held territory and pressure relatives to hand over their children under the guise of free summer camps. Many of these are in occupied Crimea. She says that, later, the children are refused the right to return home. 

Once a relative declares a child missing and contacts Save Ukraine it usually takes a month to organise the legal documentation to ensure these children can be identified and brought home. 

Yerokhina said many of these children don’t have passports: “We provide all the legal help, psychological help if they need it and the financial help. During this month, we think through the route and make some preparations with our people, with our partners. And then when everything is ready the mothers (or relatives of the missing child) are sent to Save Ukraine’s hub in Kyiv and the trip starts from there”.

According to Mykola Kuleba, the NGO’s founder and Ukraine’s former Commissioner for Children’s Rights, deported children are often moved from one camp to the next, subjected to poor living conditions and Russian propaganda. In addition, family members often undergo long waits when crossing the border and are interrogated by Russian authorities. 

Save Ukraine says it has rescued 118 forcibly-deported Ukrainian children from Russia and Belarus so far and has evacuated 95,200 people from Ukraine’s war zone.

Lvova-Belova has rejected Ukrainian and Western claims that there are “secret camps for the re-education” of the children. “If a child goes missing, Ukrainians have the option of contacting the children’s commissioner with a search report”, she said.

But the European Resilience Initiative Centre recently revealed that Russia has been forcibly deporting Ukrainian children for years and has amended its legislation to permit its continuation.

On 31 May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the EU was looking to sanction individuals in Russia involved in the kidnapping of children from Ukraine. 

“The 11th sanction package is very important. It will include, for example, the ability to; address those responsible for child abductions, which is also an area where we are working together, prioritising sanction avoidance and targeting those responsible for it,” he said in the Hague. 

What happens when these children return to Ukraine?

The process doesn’t stop there, “the reconstruction and the reform of the Ukrainian social sector, including a modern and inclusive child protection system for children, young people, and individual and family care in line with European standards is an urgent issue for the Ukrainian government” said the Swedish Minister for Social Services, Camilla Waltersson Gronvall, in Stockholm on 2 May.

Save Ukraine also provides support to rescued children and their families when they are back on home soil. The organisation has a team of therapists who attend to families and the returnees, they are advised to stay in their recovery centres in Kyiv and deal with any psychological trauma before they return home. 

“From our experience, little children, they don’t say anything. They are closed. But teenagers, they understand what is going on and what was going on. And after perhaps a month or two months, they begin to say something, to talk about being there, their circumstances or some accidents”, said Yerokhina.

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