People's Stories Children's Rights

Children are not targets. Schools and hospitals must be protected
by UN News, NRC, Save the Children
08 Apr 2019
Statement by NRC''s Secretary General Jan Egeland on yesterday’s deadly attack in Sana’a:
“The Norwegian Refugee Council is profoundly disturbed by attacks that killed and maimed school children in Sana’a yesterday. We are outraged by the escalating violence across many parts of the country and by the apparent refusal of parties to the conflict to engage meaningfully in peace talks.
The cruel nature of yesterday’s attack is too familiar to communities across Yemen. It hit a densely-populated urban, residential area in the middle of the day. It killed 14 children and seriously injured many others in their classrooms. It caused injuries that will invariably devastate scores of lives and shatter the confidence of families already contending with the broader consequences of this war.
We call on parties to the conflict to revisit and renew the commitments they made in the peace talks in Stockholm and uphold their responsibilities under the Laws of War.
We urge the international community to undertake independent investigations into such attacks on civilians and the United Nations Security Council to support conditions that enable these. Incidents of this kind undermine any positive steps taken towards reaching a political resolution for Yemen and must stop immediately.”
NRC demands an independent investigations into these repeated attacks on children in Yemen. The UN Security Council must support such investigations and call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in this senseless war.
“Children were bleeding on the floor, calling for their parents". (Save the Children)
A Save the Children child protection worker who rushed to the scene of the school where several pupils were killed yesterday described scenes of devastation, and children bleeding heavily while aid workers tried to reach them.
The Save the Children team immediately intervened at Al Raee school, and helped transfer wounded girls from governmental hospitals to private ones that can provide better care than the public system worn out by four years of conflict. Five girls aged 12 to 16, were transferred yesterday after the incident. Sadly, one died in the evening.
The aid agency will continue transfers in the coming days, to ensure the wounded girls get the best medical care available, and will cover the cost.
The Save the Children child protection worker said: “I received the news yesterday midday. We hurried to the school. The scene when we arrived there was extremely painful. Children were bleeding on the floor, calling for their parents. Parents were searching for their children, worried if they are still alive or dead. Some of the children were bleeding very badly in their classrooms, and they died.
“People were running in the streets and most of them were injured and calling for help.
“Getting the children to fully operational hospitals was challenging. One of the girls was badly injured and died due to lack of equipment and supplies in the hospital she was admitted in. It was very hard for me to inform her parents that she had passed away, her mother was crying loudly.”
“I will never forget how the father of Salma* was holding my hand, crying, and asking us to do everything we can to save his little girl. I am glad we were able to save the lives of these four girls, and I am very sad that many children died in this incident.”
One of the girls Save the Children transported, 14 year-old Amina, said: “I will never go to school again”, as she lay in hospital, her head resting on one hand, a drip inserted in the other.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children Country Director, said: “Details of what happened are still unclear. But if the damage and deaths are as a result of the conflict, then fighting has once again torn apart the lives of children in a place of learning that should be off limits. The images of bloodied school bags and crying and distressed girls are unacceptable.
“Whatever the cause, children are paying the heaviest price in this war. Children are not targets. Schools and hospitals should be protected.
“All parties to the conflict need to abide by their obligations under international law to take steps to ensure civilians, including children are protected from conflict. Ultimately, what is needed is a total end to the conflict in Yemen. Only then will children be able to grow up in safety, without fearing for their lives every minute of the day.”
Save the Children’s team visited the school, which was left devastated by the blasts. Windows were shattered and there were blood stains on the stairs which littered with bags and books left by schoolchildren running for safety. Last month, five children were killed while in the safe environment of a hospital in Kitaf.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Lise Grande, has expressed her outrage at the ‘terrible,deaths’ of civilians in the capital, Sana’a on Sunday, in which scores of women and children were also injured.
“These are terrible, senseless deaths and injuries and we offer our deep condolences to the families of the victims,” said Ms. Grande in a statement.
“Protecting people and protecting civilian infrastructure are core principles of international humanitarian law,” she stressed. “Even as we are struggling to address the worst food security crisis in the world and one of the worst cholera outbreaks in modern history, these principles are being violated.”
“The people who are the most vulnerable and who need our help and compassion the most are the people paying the highest price for this terrible conflict” said Ms. Grande. “This is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
In 2018, humanitarian organizations reported an average of 45 incidents of armed violence each week. Thousands of civilians were killed last year, including close to 1,000 children.
The war in Yemen has plunged the country in what the UN considers to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with four out of five Yemenis (24.1 million people) in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.
The funding requirements for the 2019 humanitarian response in Yemen stand at US$4.2 billion to assist more than 20 million Yemenis including 10 million people who rely entirely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs every month. Millions of Yemenis are on the brink of mass starvation.
So far, only 6 per cent of the required funds have been received!
ICRC: 30.5 million people live in Yemen.
20 million people don''t have enough to eat. 19.7 million people can''t get even basic healthcare. 17.8 million people don''t have safe water. 5.4 million people need emergency shelter.

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UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal 2019
by Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Programmes
Millions of children living in countries affected by conflict and disaster lack access to vital child protection services, putting their safety, well-being and futures at risk, UNICEF warned as it appealed for $3.9 billion to support its work for children in humanitarian crises.
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency’s 2019 appeal and its efforts to provide 41 million children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in 59 countries across the globe.
“Today millions of children living through conflict or disaster are suffering horrific levels of violence, distress and trauma,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“The impact of our child protection work cannot be overstated. When children do not have safe places to play, when they cannot be reunited with their families, when they do not receive psychosocial support, they will not heal from the unseen scars of war.”
UNICEF estimates that more than 34 million children living through conflict and disaster lack access to protection or child protection services, including 6.6 million children in Yemen, 5.5 million children in Syria and 4 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Child protection services include all efforts to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation, trauma and violence. UNICEF also works to ensure that the protection of children is central to all other areas of the organisation’s humanitarian programmes, including water, sanitation and hygiene, education and other areas of work by identifying, mitigating and responding to potential dangers to children’s safety and wellbeing.
However, funding constraints, as well as other challenges including warring parties’ growing disregard for international humanitarian law and the denial of humanitarian access, mean that aid agencies’ capacity to protect children is severely limited.
In the DRC, for example, UNICEF received just a third of the funding required for child protection programmes in 2018, while around one-fifth of child protection funding for Syrian children remained unmet.
“Providing these children with the support they need is critical, but without significant and sustained international action, many will continue to fall through the cracks,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “The international community should commit to supporting the protection of children in emergencies.”
“There’s never been as much conflict in the world in the past 30 years as this year, so it is obviously a particular threat,” he said.
Amid countless reports of deadly attacks on civilians and places of shelter – both of which are prohibited under international law – Mr. Fontaine insisted that the long-held notion that children should be protected above all others is also being undermined.
He said it was “being accepted as a new normal of attacks on schools and hospitals and detention of children,” adding that increasingly, “children are being seen not only as victims, when they’ve been actually recruited by an armed group or used by a particular armed group, but also as a perpetrator and detained once they’ve been released by an armed group.”
A total of 59 countries are to benefit from UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2019 appeal, as the agency pursues its goal of providing 41 million children with safe water, food, education, health and protection.
“Nearly eight years after the conflict broke out, we still have 2.5 million Syrian children living as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where demand for basic services such as health and education outstrip the capacity of institutions and infrastructure to actually respond,” Mr. Fontaine explained, noting that aid was needed for Syrian refugees and host communities.
Asked if he expected a significant number of Syrian families to return to the country, the UNICEF official replied that such a development was likely premature.
“There might be cases of some families, some children who decide they want to go back and we accompany them,” he said. “I think it’s a bit early right now to see how that’s going to happen in practice.”
Needs in Yemen represent UNICEF’s second largest individual appeal, as a fragile and as-yet unimplemented ceasefire deal between Houthi militants and the internationally recognised government over the Red Sea port of Hudaydah continues to cause serious concern among humanitarians.
Nearly four years since conflict escalated, more than 22 million people need humanitarian assistance, including two million Yemeni children who will require food assistance this year. “Projections from 2019 are that nearly 400,000 children will suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in Yemen during the course of the year,” Mr. Fontaine warned.
Other emergency situations include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a vast country facing a significant escalation of violence and armed conflict linked to terrible rights abuses. An ongoing outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in the east of the country has made matters worse.
“Violations against children include forced recruitment by armed groups and rampant sexual abuse,” the UNICEF official explained. “The insecurity has also seriously hindered the response to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri and aggravated disastrous malnutrition conditions across the country.”
According to the UNICEF appeal, an estimated 1.4 million children are projected to require lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2019.
Faced with such unprecedented needs, UNICEF is appealing for funding that can be allocated where it is needed most urgently, not least to under-reported emergencies including the Lake Chad region, where nearly 21 million people in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been affected by ongoing conflicts.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Fontaine insisted that the agency has been successful in helping vulnerable children, not least those whose mental scars caused by the “toxic stress” of conflict often take longer than physical wounds to heal.
“At the same time, I would say we’ve also made great progress,” he insisted. “It is the behaviour of parties to conflict that actually creates this kind of situation. Should they give us more access, should they give us more ways to protect children and should they themselves respect the sanctity of the protection of children, things would actually go a lot better.”
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children.
UNICEF’s appeal comes one month after the children’s agency said that the world is failing to protect children living in conflict around the world, with catastrophic consequences. Children who are continuously exposed to violence or conflict, especially at a young age, are at risk of living in a state of toxic stress – a condition that, without the right support can lead to negative life-long consequences for their cognitive, social and emotional development.
Some children impacted by war, displacement and other traumatic events – such as sexual and gender-based violence – require specialized care to help them cope and recover.
The five largest individual appeals are for Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey; Yemen; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Syria and South Sudan.
# In total, working alongside its partners, UNICEF aims to:
Provide almost 43 million people with access to safe water; Reach 10.1 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; Immunize 10.3 million children against measles; Treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition; Provide 4 million children and caregivers with access to psychosocial support.
In the first 10 months of 2018, as a result of UNICEF’s support:
35.3 million people had access to safe water; 5.9 million children accessed some form of education; 4.7 million children were vaccinated against measles; 2.6 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition; 3.1 million children and caregivers received psychosocial support.

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