The visiting chief of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, urged all Nepali parties involved in violent conflict not to recruit child soldiers. Bellamy did not name the Maoists but said the rights of children should get top priority in the peace negotiations and that schools should be declared "Zones of Peace." She said the ceasefire was a ray of hope for the country's 11 million children.
Addressing the delegates of "Accelerating the Momentum in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS in South Asia", a high level regional conference in Kathmandu between 3-4 February, Bellamy stressed the importance of investing in education to counter the growing menace of AIDS. She said girls were particularly vulnerable to the threat of AIDS and recommended better publicity campaigns and proactive activities to reduce gender inequalities, stigma, discrimination, poverty and abuse of human rights-the major determinants of the AIDS epidemic.
The senior UN official also called for regional action instead of just localised national programs. She said a large number of young people were at high risk. Over 40 million HIV-infected people live in South Asia out of a total of 400 million HIV-infected world population. A UN report says nearly half of them are below 29 years of age.