A petition demanding state governments to set up buffer zones around schools to protect children from the effects of pesticide drift was launched on November 20, 2016 on the occasion of International Children’s Day by PANAP and its partners.
A month after the launch, the petition has garnered 449 individual signatories. The petition will go on until June 2017 hoping to reach even greater number of supporters of close to one million to push governments in the region to make them realize the gravity of the problem and make them take action.
This is important because our schools are no longer safe. They are becoming silent killing fields for children especially those in rural areas.Pesticide drift was behind the recent poisoning of 30 school children in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia. Children have also been poisoned in the US (Mendocino and Ventura Counties, California), the Philippines (Davao del Norte), and Sri Lanka (NuwaraEliya District).
Children are slowly dying before us. To make matters worse, there are no proper laws or regulations to monitor the use and harm of pesticides on children. This is alarming! Our children can be poisoned and be left to suffer the rest of their life and the corporations behind these assaults can be free out of any prosecution or charges of negligence.
Children especially in countries like India, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are often on the frontline of these pesticide assaults. This is also the reason that PANAP partners in these countries are driving for the petition to gain traction to push state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.
Data show that pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application. An estimated number of 1.5 billion children in Asia live in rural areas. Pesticides severely impact their lives, health and intelligence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the child’s “inherent right to life” and that the survival and development of the child should be ensured to the “maximum extent possible”.
Through this petition, PANAP hopes to gather a critical mass that will pressure governments to ensure that children’s rights are upheld.
A chorus of support
Here are some of the thoughts on why this petition is important to people across the globe.
1. Davao, Philippines
“… because clean, safe air is a basic human right. Children should not be deprived of this right.” – Mary Ann Fuertes,
2. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Our children need a pollution free environment. Stop the greed that destroys our children’s lives.”- Amar-Singh HSS
3. Mandurah, Australia
“This should be banned full stop. Stop letting the greed of a few poison us and our planet” – Corinne Coombs
4. Mumbai, India
“Children are far more vulnerable to pesticide exposure compared to adults. And children spend a substantial amount of time of the day in school. So minimising / eliminating pesticide exposure to children in school needs to be an obvious first priority.” – Lakshmanan S
5. Chicago, IL, USA
“Children are our most important resource. They can’t protect themselves, so we have a responsibility to do so. They are our future.” – Theresa Kastner
6. Rome, Italy
“Am signing because I believe that children should be protected from harmful pesticides especially in vulnerable countries that have insufficient safeguards and hardly monitored by state governments.” – Teresa Dagdag, Maryknoll Sister
Activities held in conjunction with International Children’s Day
1. ‘Zee the Bee’ Storytelling Session (MALAYSIA)
Children listened to the story of ‘Zee the Bee’ narrated by one of PANAP’s staff during the storytelling session in conjunction with International Children’s Day at Straits Quay Marina Mall, Penang. The little ones were also accompanied by their parents who sat in to find out about the harms of toxic pesticides.
2. Petition Drive (MALAYSIA)
The PANAP team members engaged with parents and children to inform them about the importance of the petition to urge state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.
3. ‘Towards Pesticides-Free Environment’ Project (VIETNAM)
For the first time students were given opportunities from the get-go to organise a large-scale event. This event which took place in Dong Dat 1 Primary School saw an active participation of 300 pupils. The event also attracted high profile personnel from People’s Committee, Phu Luong Agriculture Extension Unit and local leaders. The local leaders agreed to send a letter on the impact of pesticides on children. This activity is organised by the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD), a leading Vietnamese NGO supporting rural communities to adapt to the changing environment and sustainably manage their own livelihoods.
4. School children against pesticides (CAMBODIA)
Children from Po Ampil, Takeo shared their thoughts on the harmful effects of pesticides with CEDAC, an NGO specializing in sustainable agriculture and rural development.
Please watch video here.
Please join us in stopping schools from becoming silent killing fields of children. Spare just two minutes of your time to sign the petition to create safer schools for children across the region.