Haiti's orphans: join in the debate

I've recently returned from Haiti for our upcoming Panorama examining the plight of the country's orphans.

In a nation where half the 9 million population are children under 18, it was the daily images and stories of distressed children in the days after the earthquake that were the most striking.

Despite the triumphant pictures of children being rescued from collapsed buildings and reunited with relatives, the reality for many is very different.

For our programme, we attempted to update the situation of the nation's orphaned children. This video diary gives some of my first impressions at the end of a day spent with some of Port au Prince's street kids.

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For those lucky enough to be taken in by one of Haiti's overflowing orphanages, there is the hope of a better future. I visited one where the pastor is doing his best to care for the children and give them the love and attention that they deserve.

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Our programme, the Orphans of Haiti, is on BBC One, Monday 12 July at 8.30pm and for users in the UK it is then available on the BBC iPlayer.

We'd like you to enter the debate and give us your comment on the programme. Use this forum to share your thoughts.

Revisiting Dying for a Biscuit

While filming Dying for a Biscuit - about the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest for palm oil production - we found Melay, an orphaned orangutan.

She was chained by the neck on a balcony, having been taken in as a pet years earlier.

On our travels, we learned that this happens often. Baby orangutans are orphaned when their mothers are killed as logging and palm oil companies clear vast tracks of their natural habitat.

Some of our viewers have contacted us to ask what has happened to Melay.

The International Animal Rescue charity have told me that they are planning a rescue as soon as they have completed work on a permanent rescue centre they are building on a 40-acre site in Ketapang.

You can see pictures taken by Daily Mirror photographer, Roger Allen, which will help the IAR obtain the government permits needed to release her.

Meanwhile there has been some good news for Indonesia's orangutans.

Nestlé has said it will make the palm oil in its best-selling chocolate bars more eco-friendly, by promising to cancel contracts with any firm found to be chopping down rainforests to produce the palm oil it uses in KitKat, Aero and Quality Street.

This concession is a victory for Greenpeace. A three-month long public awareness campaign culminated with what new media watchers have deemed a coup on Facebook, along with a powerful spoof advert for KitKat on YouTube.

Their Facebook campaign prompted supporters to bombard Nestlé's own fan page with critical comments.

Nestle's initial reaction was to delete the unfavourable comments, but they soon backtracked and realised that this innovative use of social media had perhaps won the upper hand in the debate.

You can read an interesting analysis of the Greenpeace campaign here.

Their You Tube video attracted 1.5 million viewers. While it was temporarily deleted for legal reasons, it has now been re-published.

You can read more reports about this at the links below:

Independent: Online protest drives Nestlé to environmentally friendly palm oil

Greenpeace Social Media Campaign Forces Nestlé To Stop Using Unsustainable Palm Oil

Your response: Dying for a Biscuit

Post categories:

Raphael Rowe | 15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Thanks for coming to the programme to watch Dying for a Biscuit.

Our examination of Indonesia's palm oil industry triggered a number of interesting online comments about deforestation, the future use of palm oil as an energy source, shopping habits, why palm oil is not listed on the ingredients of many household products and of course, the situation of the orangutans in Borneo.

Some of our viewers asked what happened to Melay, the orangutan chained to a pole that was featured in the programme.

During filming, we discovered Melay - an orphan taken as a pet by local people 10 years ago - as we returned from a trip to a palm oil concession.

As soon as I returned to the mainland and was able to e-mail, I sent a message to the International Animal Rescue charity giving the whereabouts of the chained orangutan.

Subsequently I also passed the information to another orangutan charity that works in West Kalimantan.

As I write, Melay has not yet been rescued but her owner told me that she is often moved around the river community, which could mean that finding her will prove difficult for rescue charities.

In response to questions about what the Indonesian government are doing to halt illegal deforestation, I put some of what we discovered to the country's Minister of Agriculture, Dr Suswono.

He assured me that if there is evidence of illegal development of palm oil plantations and clearing of high conservation forest he would take action. Panorama will provide the Indonesian authorities with all the evidence we discovered in order to aid their efforts.

Even the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil's European communications department thought it important to use this blog to draw viewers to what the RSPO is doing to increase the supply of sustainable oil.

With the general election coming up, some of the Panorama audience have also suggested that candidates seeking election should be asked for their views on palm oil use and labelling in the food that ends up on supermarket shelves here in Britain. Current Food Standards Agency rules allow for palm oil to be listed as vegetable oil on an ingredients list.

Those and many of the other comments that were sent to Panorama definitely provide plenty of food for thought on the subject.

Again, many thanks for taking the time to participate in our online discussion about Dying for a Biscuit.

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