After a surge in the conflict raging in Eastern Ukraine, thousands of children have been forced out of school. As a result of the heavy shelling, at least five schools and a couple of kindergartens have been damaged with 11 schools shutting their doors in response. The estimates were provided by aid agencies whose purpose is to provide emergency education services in Ukraine. As many as 2600 children attending schools in areas that are being run by the government in Eastern Ukraine have been affected by the sharp escalation in fighting. Hundreds more children have also been affected in areas not controlled by the government.
Schools shutting their doors
In the town of Avdiivka multiple schools and kindergartens have had to shut their doors leaving approximately 1,400 children without access to education. Families in the town as well as other villages in the region are scared to send their children to the schools whose doors are open as a result of the intense fighting. Unicef and its partner Save the Children have both strongly condemned the bombing of schools which the agencies say has been indiscriminate. Both agencies are calling for all sides in the conflict to reaffirm their commitment to a ceasefire signed in Minsk in 2015.
Michele Cecere, Save the Children’s Representative in Ukraine, says that the shelling of schools has unfortunately become a common occurrence in this conflict. There are reports of many unexploded shells lying in the streets which leave children at enormous risk on their way to school even when they are open. It is critical that children are able to get safely back to school as soon as possible so their education does not suffer any more than it already has.
Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF’s Representative in Ukraine, said: “The shelling of schools, the one place where children find safety and normalcy during conflict, is unacceptable and has to stop. Children in eastern Ukraine have suffered enough and we must ensure that they have safe spaces to seek solace and support.”
More than half a million children affected
The most recent round of school closures has exacerbated a continuing crisis in education which already affects as many as 600,000 children in Eastern Ukraine. The conflict has been raging for almost three years and it is estimated that 740 schools or one in five has been either damaged or destroyed resulting in students has been missing for many months of schooling.
It has been nearly three months since Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and Unicef and partners are still working on delivering aid to the worst affected by the category 4 storm. A whopping 2 million people were affected by the storm, nearly a million of them were children. 1.4 million people required aid of which 600,000 were children. Aside from the loss of homes and crops, 716 schools suffered damage as did many health facilities and sanitation infrastructure. Unicef is working with the government of Haiti and other partners to deliver safe water on a daily basis to over 281,000 people, half of which are children.
Cholera vaccination campaign
Unicef is also engaged in a cholera vaccination campaign. The campaign has been very successful, reaching 807,395 people in November alone. Unicef has also managed to restore the cold-chain systems of 37 facilities and has restored services at 35 malnutrition outpatient treatment centres. The organisation has also restored schools making it possible for 4,200 children to return to school. It is estimated that 36,000 children will be able to return to schools rehabilitated by Unicef.
Working with local communities
Unicef collaborates closely with communities to fight the malnutrition that continues to affect Haiti’s children and adults who are finding it tough to recover as a result of extended drought and other effects of hurricane Matthew. The protection and interventions provided by Unicef are helping families that have lost their ability to earn a living and are targeted at preventing child separation. It is extremely common for parents who are experiencing difficulties to place their children in a residential care facility under the false belief their children will continue to receive the education parents can no longer afford to provide.
“Three months after Matthew, we can already see improvements: safe water is increasingly available, the vast majority of schools have reopened as have a number of health facilities; and areas that are the most difficult to access are receiving assistance. Unicef is continuing to fulfil its mandate and obligations to emergency and development efforts, “said Marc Vincent, Unicef Representative in Haiti.
Donors have opened their wallets
In order to continue delivering aid and intervention, Unicef needs money. The aid agency’s appeal for Haiti has risen from US$13.4 million before the hurricane hit, to US$36.6 million in the aftermath of the hurricane. By the end of the year, this target was 85% funded thanks to the generosity of donors. The money will allow Unicef to meet the most urgent needs of the children and families of Haiti.
As the conflict in Syria continues to escalate, in less than a year, the number of children who are trapped by the violence has doubled. There are now nearly half a million children who live in approximately 16 areas across the countries that are under siege and completely cut off from basic services and humanitarian aid.
Life is a nightmare
Anthony Lake an Executive Director for Unicef says that for millions of people in Syria, life has turned into a nightmare that never ends. The worst affected are the hundreds of thousands of children who are living under siege conditions. He adds that kids are being killed and injured and this means they fear going to school and don’t have the courage to even play. They are surviving on very little food and medicine is scarce. Mr. Lake concludes by saying that too many children are dying and this is no way for them to live.
Two years without aid
There are some communities in Syria that have not had access to aid in more than two years. Unicef estimates that in Eastern Aleppo there are at least 100,000 children living under siege. Without safe spaces, children are playing in schools, hospitals, basements and schools. In one area that has come under siege, some volunteers came together to build a playground and park by linking several basements together. The project has been a massive success with as many as 200 children visiting the playground every day. One school has moved completely underground providing 50 girls with the opportunity to continue to learn.
The sieges need to end
As the conflict enters into its sixth year, Unicef renews its call on all participants to end the sieges that are raging across the country. The aid agency says it is critical that participants in the conflict enable immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to all areas throughout the country.
The fighting in Yemen has continued unabated for more than a year and a half with nearly 80 per cent of the entire population which includes 10 million children in dire need of life saving assistance. If you were to look closely at the conflict you would see the true impact of the war on the country’s children. Whilst images of children that are starving show a single dimension of the horrors facing children and their families in Yemen, the situation is worsened by the extremely poor economic situation the families face.
Health care system dysfunctional
Another aspect of the conflict is the fact the most of Yemen’s health care facilities are not functioning or do not have adequate staff. There are millions of people who are in danger but do not have access to the medical treatment necessary for survival. On top of all that, there has been an outbreak of cholera which is placing additional pressure on a health care system that is already extremely stressed. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people have died, half of which were children under the age of 15.
Aid is being delivered
In the last few week Unicef and its partners have managed to reach out to as many as 10,000 communities across Yemen using as many as 34,000 health care workers and 10,000 vehicles as well as other means of transportation. With that equipment, the aid agency has managed to reach children in the most remote parts of the country and has screened close to half a million children under the age of 5 for malnutrition. Unicef has treated almost 23,000 children for severe acute malnutrition.
Unicef needs your help
Unicef’s efforts come at a critical moment as the conflict in Yemen has left the health and nutrition system in shambles placing the lives of millions of women and children at risk. Whilst there has been progress, money is running out. Unicef is appealing for £125 million to reach people that are in desperate need of life saving food and supplies in the country. Unicef needs an additional £11 million to meet the needs of people suffering from cholera.
The situation in Yemen for children and their families is deteriorating right before our very eyes. We need to do everything we can to help them, even though their future seems well beyond their control. Please make a donation to Unicef’s appeal for Yemen’s children. They must not be allowed to go hungry.
As many as 6 million children throughout the Caribbean were in danger as Hurricane Matthew passed through the region. The storm has devastated the lives of 1.2 million people in Haiti alone. The rain has not abated causing school’s banks and shops to shut their doors. Unicef was there on the ground as it happened and had very little access to information, but was able to cobble together some kind of picture thanks to satellite phones and its NGO partners. The heaviest damage occurred in the South and the Grande Anse department with thousands of people losing their homes.
The situation is grim
Haiti’s three biggest cities (aside from Port Au Prince) Les Cayes, Aquin and Torbek were submerged under water and to put that into context, that is an estimated 300,000 people affected by flooding. These people have lost what little they had to begin with. Roads have disappeared and trees and cattle have all gone. The situation is similar in other parts of the country and if Unicef is to mount an effective response it will need at least US$ 2 million in order to deliver lifesaving assistance. As the impact of the storm becomes clearer additional needs with be required.
Supplies reaching children
The good news is all the supplies that Unicef sent before the storm hit were distributed amongst many of the most affected families. This is a good place to start from, but more needs to be done obviously and Unicef is working with both the government and its partners to cover the basic requirements of families that are in need. The current priority is making sure that children and their families have access to safe water so there is no outbreak of any epidemic. Emergency supplies such as hygiene kits, water bladders and chlorination tablets have been delivered to the site. The most important priority right now is keeping children safe from disease however, this is just the beginning.
Infrastructure is poor
Children’s lives have been affected in many ways. Education has been disrupted obviously because the schools have been closed with many acting as shelters. Children have also been separated from their families and there is almost no access to healthcare. Unicef sent two teams to the South to get a better picture of what is happening there. The whole of Southern Haiti has been cut off from the rest of the country after a bridge collapsed following relentless lashing by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s infrastructure is both fragile and sparse and the bridge is the only one that links the capital to the Southern peninsula.
Unicef says it is important to make children’s right central to school life because they not only provide a frame of reference for interpreting the world we live in, but it also improves educational outcomes. Kentish Town Primary School is taking advantage of a free Unicef refugee teaching resource dubbed “In Search of Safety.” The resource was developed as part of World Refugee Day. Anna, a year six teacher says the resource is essential. Prior to the resource being made available, many people were nervous about beginning a discussion. Today, children now understand that refugee rights are being disrespected.
All children have the same rights
James, the school’s head teacher says the resource has helped build a more cohesive community. He adds that students were horrified that this was happening because migrant children have the same rights as they do. The children now have a deep understanding not only of their rights but the rights of others. When the school was being assessed a group of student ambassadors showcased in an assembly examples of where classes were able to use what they had learned to tackle issues in their communities.
Students helping out in the community
Students have engaged in a number of community outreach programmes. For example, Willow Class helped out at a local wildlife reservation where they helped conserve turtles. Sycamore Class decided to tackle air pollution because they were worried about rising levels of nitrogen hydroxide. Beech Class participated in a sponsored “sleep out” and were able to raise £2740 for a couple of charities that work with the homeless.
Making the world a better place
As the students of Kentish Town Primary School learn more about children’s right’s, that knowledge has spread and parents have also begun to lend their input by suggesting additional rights-based campaigning activity. James concludes that the exercise is all about outcomes and empowering children to make the world a better place by helping to change it.
UNICEF says that since the beginning of the year, over 650 children have been recruited into South Sudanese armed groups. The agency is extremely worried that renewed fighting is likely to put at even greater risk, tens of thousands of children. As such UNICEF is calling for an immediate cessation of recruitment and the total release of all children being held by armed actors. Since the crisis first began in December 2013, it is estimated that 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups. UNICEF says the practice of recruiting children continues despite widespread political commitment to end it.
“The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth, speaking from Nairobi following a trip to Bentiu and Juba in South Sudan. “At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent.”
Last year UNICEF was responsible for the release of 1,775 former child soldiers, one of the largest such releases ever. Despite that success renewed conflict and recruitment in South Sudan will undo much of the progress that has been made in recent years. UNICEF has also drawn attention to the fact that grave violations are taking place in the youngest country in the world such as gender based violence which was already pervasive but because of the current crisis has greatly intensified.
Sexual exploitation continues
Mr. Forsyth says that the country’s children continue to have to endure horrific ordeals whilst there are plenty of reports which suggest the sexual violence against girls and women is widespread. Mr. Forsyth adds the systematic use of sexual exploitation, rape and abduction as a weapon of war in South Sudan must end now. UNICEF says that it is necessary for the agency to gain unconditional access for humanitarian interventions in Juba as well as other parts of the country, so that support, protection and assistance can be provided to children and women throughout the country. Forsyth adds that unless there is a fully operational humanitarian sector, the consequences will be catastrophic for children and their families.
Since Unicef launched its campaign to reunite migrant children that have been travelling unaccompanied with their families in the UK, many people have asked the question why have these children have been travelling alone in the first place. Rather unsurprisingly, it is the children who have been making the perilous journey so they can be safe explain why. Often these children simply have no one left. They have lost all their friends and family to violence and they worry they will be next.
Staying is more dangerous than leaving
The civil war raging in Syria is now entering into its sixth year. As the country’s towns and villages are bombed, the simple answer to the question is that it is safer for children affected by conflict to leave. One migrant child said he spoke to his family once a month and they were happy that he left Syria because a small mistake could result in death.
Children are forced to fight in the army and armed groups
Another Syrian refugee says that soldiers come into people’s homes and force them to join the army. More often than not they single out the youngest child and this is completely wrong. As a result, it is no surprise that children are fleeing the conflict so they can avoid forced recruitment.
Families could not leave together
Migration is an expensive proposition and this means that many families simply cannot leave together. Even if they do manage to leave together, often many families become separated. One refugee said he really wishes his family could have left with him but they haven’t been allowed to leave and they cannot afford to pay off smugglers. It is simply too expensive to pay for boats and with seven family members it would cost them £7,000 minimum to flee.
The simple answer
Families simply have no choice in letting their children go alone because it is just not safe for them to stay at home. If these children can make it to Europe they will have family waiting there for them. The problem they face is there is not a legal or safe way for children to escape to Europe. They are forced to make a dangerous journey either over land or by sea and place their lives in the hands of smugglers. Unicef hopes to change this and ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are eventually reunited with their families.
Migrant children making the dangerous journey to Europe as they seek to break free of a life of conflict or poverty face the threat of rape, forced labour and beatings as well as the risk of drowning in the Mediterranean, aid agency UNICEF says. Child migrants account for an increasing percentage of refugees, in particular those trying to reach Italy by sea from Libya UNICEF says in its latest report titled “Danger Every Step of the Way”. Of the near quarter million people who arrived in Europe by Sea this year, nearly one in three was a child.
“Every step of the journey is fraught with danger, all the more so for the nearly one in four children traveling without a parent or guardian,” UNICEF said.
The ratio was much greater on boats arriving from Libya where 90 per cent of children were unaccompanied.
UNICEF said that there was “strong evidence that criminal human trafficking networks were targeting the most vulnerable, in particular women and children. Italian social workers claim that both boys and girls are sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution while in Libya, and that some of the girls were pregnant when they arrived in Italy, having been raped,”
UNICEF says many of the children have been failed by the asylum systems which have become dramatically overstretched, however their cases should be a priority.
“All too often children are held behind bars – in detention facilities or in police custody – because of a lack of space in child protection centers and limited capacity for identifying alternative solutions,” it said.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the U.N.’s human rights chief has said he is extremely worried by the rise in migrant in Greece and Italy. Mr. Hussein has urged authorities to avoid confining children whilst their asylum requests were being processed. It can take as many as two years for authorities to evaluate a child’s asylum request. Once they reach Europe, refugees and migrants are often housed in former military barracks, sports halls or other temporary shelters. Children often have no access to schooling or emotional support.
This time last year, two major earthquakes struck Nepal within a couple of weeks of each other. They left nearly 9000 people dead and as many as 22,300 injured. The quakes resulted in thousands of homes being ripped apart and flattened schools and hospitals. More than a million children were left in danger. Unicef appealed to the British public to help fund an emergency response and they answered with a resounding £7 million in donations.
The money raised by the Unicef Nepal earthquake appeal enabled the agency to work with the Nepali government and other partners to help rebuild the lives of children affected by the disaster. The response included delivery of water and sanitation. Unicef was also able to offer children at risk access to health care and nutrition. The money raised was used to fund the protection of children and their families.
UK support made all the difference
Thanks to its British supporters, Unicef has made sure that over half a million children have been vaccinated against measles and rubella. Close to a million children have been issued with health kits that can be used to treat life threatening diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. 1.3 million people have been provided with clean water and nearly half a million people have been provided with toilets and sanitation facilities. Nearly 180,000 children and their families have been given access to psychosocial care and support.
Unicef would like to say a huge thank you to the British public as well as its government for lending their support to the children of Nepal affected by the earthquake and being there when they needed it most