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We are seeing an utter disregard for the protection of children in conflict
by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore
10:57am 12th Jun, 2018
June 2018
We are seeing an utter disregard for the protection of children in conflict - UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“I have recently returned from a trip to Mali with the Secretary General, where children are suffering in silence, and are the missing face of the crisis.
“More than 850,000 children under the age of five are at risk of malnutrition this year, including 274,000 who face severe malnutrition and are at imminent risk of death. This represents a 34 per cent increase over our initial estimates for the year.
“More than a million children are out of primary school and another million are out of secondary school. At least 750 primary schools remain closed in the northern and central parts of the country due to insecurity.
“Mali is also one of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rates of newborn and maternal mortality, with 1 in 28 babies dying in the first month of life and 1 in 27 women likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.
“Mali is one of many countries around the world where children are suffering greatly because of conflict.
“Yemen has the highest number of children in need at 11.3 million, followed by Syria with 8 million children and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 7.9 million.
“These are vast numbers, and the number of children affected by conflict is on the increase. It’s an issue that UNICEF is hard at work on, and we very much appreciate Sweden’s long standing interest and leadership on the issue of children and armed conflict. It is an issue the world needs to pay more attention to. Children are bearing the brunt of most of these conflicts.
“What we are seeing around the world is an utter disregard for the protection of children.
“In Syria, over 300 education facilities have been attacked since the beginning of the conflict 7 years ago. Schools should always a be a place of safety. Schools should always be protected.
“In South Sudan, around 19,000 children continue to serve as fighters, messengers, porters, cooks and even sex slaves for the warring parties.
“Conflicts are increasingly taking place in urban settings, causing significant damage to civilian infrastructure and damaging social protection systems.
“Water systems are being damaged: In Yemen, between August 2017 and May 2018, there were 5 verified attacks by the Coalition forces on water reservoirs and pipes, namely in Sa’ada and Amran governorates, affecting over 90,000 people.
“Hospitals and medical staff have frequently come under direct attack. In Syria alone, 92 attacks have been documented over the first four months of this year, involving 89 deaths and 135 injuries. In 2017, the World Health Organization recorded 322 attacks resulting in 242 deaths among medical personnel and patients.
“Hard won gains on education are being reversed. In Mali, the number of children out of primary school increased by 30 per cent since 2009. In Afghanistan, the number of children out of school increased for the first time since 2002, with 3.7 million children – nearly half of all children between ages 7 and 17 – now missing out on school.
“Harrowing violence inflicted on women and girls, often with life-long consequences and in complete impunity.
“In Cox’s Bazar, nine months after Rohingya refugees fled brutal attacks – that included killings, burnings and rapes – women are facing the stigma of sexual violence and the horror of delivering and raising babies in appalling conditions.
“The longer the conflict, the deeper the impact.. We see this in the long unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, from the hundreds of Palestinian children who are detained in Israeli prisons each month, to the children in southern Israel who live under the threat of mortars or rockets landing in their homes and schools.
“We also see it in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where ethnic violence in the Kasai region has led to a massive increase in child recruitment, and where decades of war have weakened health systems, making the country vulnerable to disease outbreaks. An ongoing Ebola outbreak is the latest addition to the woes of the country and its children.
“In all these countries, UNICEF’s dedicated teams are working to deliver for children, often in extremely complex environments and sometimes at great risk.
“Examples of this work since the beginning of the year include:
In Cox’s Bazar, diphtheria vaccination for more than 400,000 children and psychosocial support for 140,000 children. In South Sudan, measles vaccination for 460,000 children and release of more than 800 child soldiers. In Syria, access to safe water for 13 million people and polio vaccination for 3.3 million children. In Yemen, severe malnutrition treatment for over 61,000 children and access to safe water for close to 4 million people.
“We need access to the populations we serve. We urge parties to the conflicts to allow humanitarian organizations to have unimpeded, unconditional and sustained access so that we are able to save lives.
We need funds. Of the $3.7 billion we need for humanitarian programmes this year, we have only received 900 million – or 24 per cent – in 2018.
“Children need peace, but meanwhile, parties to conflict have an obligation to respect the rules of war – rules that prohibit the unlawful targeting of civilians, attacks on schools or hospitals, the use, recruitment and unlawful detention of children, and the denial of humanitarian assistance. When conflicts break out, these rules need to be respected and those who break them need to be held to account.”
12 June 2018
“As the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah faces the threat of an assault, I am extremely concerned about the impact it will have on children in this port city and beyond.
“UNICEF estimates that at least 300,000 children currently live in and around Hodeidah city – boys and girls who have been suffering for so long already.
“Millions more children throughout Yemen depend on the humanitarian and commercial goods that come through that port every day for their very survival. Without food imports, one of the world’s worst malnutrition crises will only worsen. Without fuel imports, critical for water pumping, people’s access to drinking water will shrink further, leading to even more cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera, both of which can be deadly for small children.
“There are 11 million children in need of humanitarian aid in this war-torn country. Choking off this lifeline will have devastating consequences for every one of them.
“UNICEF teams delivered antibiotics, syringes, IV fluid, ready-to-use therapeutic food and hygiene kits to our local partners in Hodeidah just two days ago. But this will only last so long. Should the security situation worsen, our capacity to respond will be severely hampered.
“We urge all parties to the conflict and all those who have influence over them to put the protection of children above all other considerations. Every effort must be made to keep children safe and to provide them with the health, protection, water, sanitation, nutrition and education services they desperately need. Aid distribution should continue unimpeded and civilians wishing to move to safe areas should be allowed to do so.”
May 2018
Attacks on children in conflict continue unabated, by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“From the Central African Republic to South Sudan, and from Syria to Afghanistan, attacks on children in conflict have continued unabated during the first four months of the year.
"With little remorse and even less accountability, parties to conflict continue to blatantly disregard one of the most basic rules in war: the protection of children.
"No method of warfare has been off-limits, no matter how deadly for children: Indiscriminate attacks on schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, abductions, child recruitment, besiegement, abuse in detention and denial of humanitarian assistance were all too commonplace.
"In Yemen, for example, more than 220 children were allegedly killed and over 330 were injured since the beginning of the year as a result of the conflict. Nearly 4.3 million children are now at risk of starvation, a 24 per cent increase over 2017 levels. An acute watery diarrhoea and cholera outbreak which killed more than 400 children under the age of five last year is threatening to claim even more young lives as the rainy season begins and hygiene conditions deteriorate further.
"In Syria, hopes for peace remain dim. More than 70 attacks on hospitals and health facilities were verified during the first three months of the year, denying children and families vital health services. Over 300 education facilities have been attacked since the beginning of the conflict. Some 5.3 million children have been internally displaced or became refugees, and nearly 850,000 children continue to live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas.
"In Gaza, we have seen children killed and injured in protests since early March, with reports on Monday of more child casualties in what is said to be the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.
“In Bangladesh, more than 400,000 Rohingya refugee children who survived recent atrocities in Myanmar need humanitarian assistance. As the monsoon season approaches, the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases is higher than ever.
"In South Sudan, the first country I visited as UNICEF Executive Director, at least 2.6 million children have been forced to flee their homes. More than 1 million children are acutely malnourished including over 250,000 severely so and at increased risk of death. Although close to 600 children have been released from armed groups so far this year, around 19,000 continue to serve as fighters, messengers, porters, cooks and even sex slaves for the warring parties.
"In Afghanistan, more than 150 children were reported killed and over 400 injured during the first three months of the year because of the conflict.
"In the Central African Republic, renewed violence over the past few months has forced nearly 29,000 children to flee their homes, bringing the total number of internally displaced children close to 360,000. More than 2 in 5 children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition and one third of school-aged children are now out of school.
"In all these countries and many more, committed teams from UNICEF and partners are doing all they can to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable, those separated from their families, terrified and alone, those getting sick in densely populated refugee camps, those on the move in monsoon and unrelenting dry seasons, those who are starving.
“Despite funding shortfalls – we have only received 16 per cent of our funding needs for this year – we are resolutely committed to serving the most vulnerable. We are vaccinating children, treating them for malnutrition, sending them to school, providing them with protection services, and trying to meet their basic needs.
“Humanitarian aid alone is not enough. Children need peace and protection at all times. The rules of war prohibit the unlawful targeting of civilians, attacks on schools or hospitals, the use, recruitment and unlawful detention of children, and the denial of humanitarian assistance. When conflicts break out, these rules need to be respected and those who break them need to be held to account. Enough is enough. Stop attacks on children."
Feb. 2018
Humanitarian Action for Children 2018 Appeal
UNICEF appealed today for $3.6 billion to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to 48 million children living through conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies in 51 countries in 2018.
Around the world, violent conflict is driving humanitarian needs to critical levels, with children especially vulnerable. Conflicts that have endured for years – such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, among other countries – continue to deepen in complexity, bringing new waves of violence, displacement and disruption to children’s lives.
“Children cannot wait for wars to be brought to an end, with crises threatening the immediate survival and long term future of children and young people on a catastrophic scale,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine.
“Children are the most vulnerable when conflict or disaster causes the collapse of essential services such as healthcare, water and sanitation. Unless the international community takes urgent action to protect and provide life-saving assistance to these children, they face an increasingly bleak future.”
Parties to conflicts are showing a blatant disregard for the lives of children. Children are not only coming under direct attack, but are also being denied basic services as schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure are damaged or destroyed. Approximately 84 per cent ($3.015 billion) of the 2018 funding appeal is for work in countries affected by humanitarian crises borne of violence and conflict.
The world is becoming a more dangerous place for many children, with almost one in four children now living in a country affected by conflict or disaster. For too many of these children, daily life is a nightmare.
The spread of water-borne diseases is one of the greatest threats to children’s lives in crises. Attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure, siege tactics which deny children access to safe water, as well as forced displacement into areas with no water and sanitation infrastructure – all leave children and families at risk of relying on contaminated water and unsafe sanitation.
Girls and women face additional threats, as they often fulfil the role of collecting water for their families in dangerous situations.
“117 million people living through emergencies lack access to safe water and in many countries affected by conflict, more children die from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation than from direct violence,” said Fontaine. “Without access to safe water and sanitation, children fall ill, and are often unable to be treated as hospitals and health centres either do not function or are overcrowded.
The threat is even greater as millions of children face life-threatening levels of malnutrition, making them more susceptible to water-borne diseases like cholera, creating a vicious cycle of undernutrition and disease.”
As the leading humanitarian agency on water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies, UNICEF provides over half of the emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services in humanitarian crises around the world.
When disasters strike, UNICEF works with partners to quickly provide access to safe drinking water, sanitation services and hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease. This includes establishing latrines, distributing hygiene kits, trucking thousands of litres of water to displacement camps daily, supporting hospitals and cholera treatment centres, and repairing water and sanitation systems.
These measures save lives, have long-term impact and pave the way for other important services like health clinics, vaccination programmes, nutrition support and emergency education.
The largest component of UNICEF’s appeal this year is for children and families caught up in the Syria conflict, soon to enter its eighth year. UNICEF is seeking almost $1.3 billion to support 6.9 million Syrian children inside Syria and those living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Working with partners and with the support of donors, in 2018 UNICEF aims to:
Provide 35.7 million people with access to safe water; Reach 8.9 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; Immunize 10 million children against measles; Provide psychosocial support to over 3.9 million children; Treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition.
In the first ten months of 2017, as a result of UNICEF’s support:
29.9 million people were provided with access to safe water; 13.6 million children were vaccinated against measles; 5.5 million children accessed some form of education; 2.5 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition; 2.8 million children accessed psycho-social support.

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