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INDIA

Norway won’t place Indian kids with uncle

Norwegian social workers, who sparked a diplomatic row by removing two Indian children from their parents, said on Wednesday they were calling off a deal to place the kids with their uncle in India due to a spat inside the family.

"In light of the great uncertainty that now prevails, the Child Welfare Service cannot maintain that a move to India would be in the best interest of the children," said Gunnar Toresen, the head of the agency's local branch in the south-western Norwegian town of Stavanger.

The two children, aged one and three, were removed from their parents in May last year by the child welfare services, which deemed they were not receiving proper care, but refused to give more details, citing confidentiality.

The parents, Norwegian residents Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, have rejected the allegations and initially claimed on Indian television that Norwegian authorities objected to their feeding the children by hand and sharing the same bed — common practices in India where they are seen as part of the bonding between mother and child.

Earlier this week however, the father, Anurup, changed his story, telling Indian media: "It was not just cultural bias that prompted the CWS (child welfare service) to act. My wife has a serious psychological problem."

Anurup, who is now seeking custody of the children, told Tuesday's The Hindu newspaper he was speaking out after a row with his wife in which she allegedly attacked him, and that he had "concealed the seriousness" of problems within his family. His wife's version of events was not given.

A Stavanger court had been set to hold a hearing Friday on whether the initial deal to hand custody of the children to their uncle in India was in their best interest, but the child welfare services said the new developments "make it impossible to carry out the hearing."

"The conflict over the last few days have revealed that the necessary foundation for an agreement does not exist. The Child Welfare Service is no longer confident that the parties wish to enter into a genuine agreement," Toresen said in the statement.

"Even if the parents and the children's uncle should nevertheless now want to sign an agreement, the Child Welfare Service does not have sufficient confidence that an agreement would be fulfilled as intended, because the necessary consensus and understanding between the parties and their families does not exist," he said.

Norwegian authorities were worried, he added, "that the children could be caught up in a very unfortunate tug of war in India."

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CHILDREN

Why Norway is at both the top and bottom of Unicef ranking

Although Norway tops a new Unicef list of children's chances of good health, the country fares far worse when it comes to protecting children's rights to a good climate in the future.

Why Norway is at both the top and bottom of Unicef ranking
Norwegian children meeting Crown Princess Mette-Marit. File photo: AFP

A commission appointed by Unicef and the WHO has produced the report A future for the world’s children?, published by medical journal The Lancet.

40 experts were appointed by the commission to review worldwide health prospects for children and young people.

In the report, 180 countries are ranked by the opportunities with which they provide children for their futures. This includes basic survival, health, education, nutrition, sustainability, justice and inequality.

“It’s time for a new approach to the health of children, a new era in which all governments ensure that the wellbeing of children comes before anything else,” Unicef Norway general secretary Camilla Viken told news bureau NTB.

With regard to the global health of children, Viken noted that, despite huge improvements in general over the last 20 years, development has stagnated and is at risk of being reversed in the worst cases.

“Climate change, dangerous marketing and obesity are some of the newer and greatest threats against our children, threats which were unthinkable a few generations ago,” she said.

No country is free of flaws in all sections of the report, which focuses on how well countries are ensuring health, environment and a secure future for children.

Norway is, though, top of the list for giving children the best possible chance of good health, just ahead of South Korea and the Netherlands. Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Sweden and 6th and 13th respectively.

But on the question of protecting the climate for future generations, Norway is to be found on the lower reaches of the ranking, in 156th place. Interestingly South Korea and the Netherlands also perform poorly in this category, at 166th and 160th respectively.

READ ALSO: Norway's Equinor sets green goals but activists unimpressed

Norway emits 212 percent more CO2 per person of the 2030 climate target, a key reason for its low ranking. Denmark emits 122 percent of the target, putting it 135th, and Sweden is 55 percent over, corresponding to 116th place.

Another key element of the report is the potential impact of poor diets on the health of children. Heavy marketing of unhealthy products, targeted at children, is linked by the commission to increasing levels of obesity in children globally.

In 2016, 124 million children worldwide were obese, compared to 11 million in 1975, according to the report – an eleven-fold increase.

A Unicef report from last year placed Norway amongst countries with increasing incidence of obesity in children, NTB writes.

READ ALSO: Norwegian kids are fourth fittest in the world in 2016

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