Unicef Says Children Of The Middle East And North Africa Suffering From Unprecedented Levels Of Violence
According to Unicef, approximately one in five children living throughout the Middle East and North Africa are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Unicef adds that more than 90 per cent of these children live in countries that have been stricken by conflict. Geert Cappelaere, Unicef Regional Director says that war robs millions of children of their childhood and puts at risk decades of progress that has been made across the Middle East and North Africa.
Children suffer the most
Children are the ones that suffer most from continuous violence, displacement and lack of basic services. In many cases conflict participants purposely target civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, water, energy, sanitation and hygiene installations. Rather unsurprisingly, deliberate targeting of this sort exposes children to the risk of disease and death. Millions of families have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the violence. In some case under fire and in other cases multiple times. The continuing violence and displacement makes it much harder for families and their children to cope.
No end in sight
Mr Cappelaere says that the conflict seems to be without end which has put a heavy financial burden on many families who are often left with no choice but to send their children out to work and to marry their daughters off early. He adds that the number of children that are affiliated with the fighting has more than doubled.
The situation is bad
Within Syria and those countries which host refugees, approximately 12 million Syrian children require humanitarian assistance. In 2012 that number was just half a million. It is estimated that 2 million children reside in hard to reach areas of Syria which has resulted in them receiving limited humanitarian aid over the years. In Yemen, the conflict has resulted in the destruction of water and sanitation systems which has caused the world’s worst outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhea. Half of Yemen’s health care facilities no longer function and water systems have been destroyed which has meant that 15 million people lack access to safe water of basic healthcare.
World leaders need to do more
Mr Cappelaere says the region’s children have had to endure unprecedented levels of violence. Many have witnessed acts of violence that no one should ever have to witness. If the conflicts continue, Mr Cappelaere says the consequences for the region but the world at large will be dire. He calls on world leaders to do more to put an end to the violence for the sake of girls and boys and their futures.
According to Unicef, over one million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of waves of violence in the Greater Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This makes the DRC one of world’s largest displacement crises for children. Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Acting Representative in the DRC says the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families in that part of the country have found that their lives have been turned upside down. 850,000 children out of a total of 1.4 million people have found themselves displaced.
Apart from civil war the economy is in shambles
The vast majority of people who have had to leave the region are now living with relatives and foster families in communities which are already amongst the poorest in the world. The situation is being compounded by the worsening economic situation in the DRC. Many people fleeing the violence have either lost or left behind all their essential and personal belongings. A minority of displaced families have fled into the bush that lies near their villages and have chosen to survive in improvised huts. This is far from ideal and the families are amongst the most vulnerable. This is because they lack access to humanitarian workers, food, shelter, water and sanitation.
Unicef and its partners have started a cash assistance program for people who have fled the violence. The money provides cash support to households who spend it on basic necessities. So far Unicef has delivered assistance to 11,225 households through the programme. Aside from the cash assistance scheme, Unicef is also running a multi-sectoral programme it calls Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM).
RRM is expected to be launched within the next few weeks and will seek to position materials and aid partners in advance of a crisis, so there can be a rapid response to the needs of displaced populations. The assistance Unicef will proved will include access to healthcare, the delivery of nutrition and water as well as the provision of sanitation and hygiene. Unicef will also provide non-food items including shelter materials, kitchen utensils and other items of this kind. It is estimated that 50,000 households will benefit from RRM over the coming months.
Unicef the international aid agency says that a shortfall in funding is posing a threat to the education of millions of children who find themselves caught in the middle of conflicts or disasters. Of the US$932 million required by Unicef this year for the agency’s education programmes, it has only received less than $115 million in voluntary contributions. Unicef needs the money to deliver education to as many as 9.2 million children that have been impacted by humanitarian crises.
Growing up without knowledge or skills
Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan says that is children fail to receive an education they grow up without the knowledge or the skill required to make a contribution to the peace and development of their countries. She adds that for the millions of children living in war zones the threats are even more severe. The fact that the children don’t go to school leaves them vulnerable to child marriages, forced labour and even recruitment by armed militia.
Access to education is why people are fleeing
One of the main reasons many families choose to flee their homes aside from being driven out by conflict is the pursuit of educational opportunities for their children. According to the results of a survey of refugee and migrant children in Italy, 38 per cent said they came to Europe to obtain access to educational opportunities. Another survey conducted in Greece showed that nearly one third of parents or guardians said education was the main reason they left their countries and came to Europe. For children who have experienced the horrors of war, education can very well be lifesaving.
Education is the path to peace and prosperity
Muzoon says that when she and her family fled Syria in 2013 she was terrified that she would never go back to school. But upon arriving in Jordan, fortunately there was a school in her camp. Muzoon says she felt relieved and hopeful because school gives children like herself the chance at having a peaceful and prosperous future. As an educational activist as well as being a refugee from Syria, Muzoon has partnered with Unicef to speak on behalf of millions of children that have been displaced by conflict and do not have access to education.
“I urge world leaders to invest in the futures of children living in emergencies — and by doing so invest in the future of our world,” Muzoon said.
For weeks now the conflict in the Central African Republic has been intensifying and this has resulted in a virtual blockade of critical humanitarian assistance required by thousands of families displaced by the violence. Unicef has said a few planes have been permitted to land in the South-East town of Bangassou carrying 5.6 tonnes of emergency aid including cooking material, soap, water buckets, blankets and mats. The aid was distributed amongst 800 households by Unicef partner organisation ACTED.
Thousands of families in desperate need of assistance
Unicef representative for Central African Republic Christine Muhigana says the agency has been attempting to reach thousands of families in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, but this has become nearly impossible because the escalating violence has made it too dangerous. Ms Muhigana says given how critical the situation has become in the South East of the country, the only available solution was to airlift emergency supplies to families and children in these difficult to reach areas.
Clashes between armed groups
There have been a number of clashes between armed groups in the South East of the country which have left more than 300 people dead and 200 injured the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes seeking out safety. This represents the Central African Republic’s largest population displacement since 2014. In Bria 40,000 people out of a total population of 47,000 have left with most people who have fled being children.
UN asking for access to civilians
In the worst affected areas, the roads are only accessible via UN military escort due to the violence and this means truck drivers do not wish to transport supplies because they fear for the lives. Unicef is calling on all armed groups to give aid workers the ability to access civilian populations without any impediments so they may deliver life-saving supplies and service without delay.
Escalating violence may unwind previous agreements
Unicef also worries that the most recent outbreak of violence could mean the unwinding of prior commitments made by armed groups to release all captive children and cease any further recruitment. In May 2015 leaders of 10 different armed factions in the Central African Republic committed to releasing children and since that agreement was signed, over 7,000 children have been released from their ranks.
UNICEF says that there are 1.4 million children in drought ridden Somalia that will likely suffer from acute malnutrition this year. That is a 50 per cent increase from the first estimate which was made in January. The figures include more than 275,000 children who are likely to face a severe form of acute malnutrition which is life threatening and are nine times more likely to die of diseases such as measles or cholera. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says the combination of dehydration and malnutrition added to displacement is deadly for children.
Children could die within hours
Ms Mercado added that a child that was severely dehydrated and malnourished can die within a few hours if they fail to receive treatment for diarrhoea or cholera. Measles is also a major threat because it is airborne and can spread like wildfire in the camps. It is estimated that 2.9 million people in Somalia face the prospects of famine. In North-East Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen 17 million people are at risk says the United Nation. In pockets of South Sudan, famine has already been declared.
Huge increase in children suffering from malnutrition
So far UNICEF has treated roughly 56,000 Somali children for malnutrition since the start of the year which represents an increase of over 88 per cent over last year said Ms Mercado. UNICEF funds nutrition and cholera centres but has no data on how many children have died from hunger and disease in Somalia. Ms Mercado said that during the 2011 famine an estimated 258,000 people perished over a year and half period. 133,000 of the people who died were young children.
“Every mother I spoke to said their children were sick, either with diarrhoea, or vomiting or feverish. Most had never been vaccinated before because of the insecurity across the country,” Mercado said. “The pace and the scale of displacement have risen exponentially.”
Approximately 615,000 Somalis have had to flee their homes since last November because of the drought and crop failure. They join the 1 million people that have already been internally displaced. The UN has managed to achieve approximately 60 per cent of its funding target for its humanitarian appeal of US$ 720 million for Somalia. A spokesperson for the agency said it is in a race against time.
More than 200,000 children or nearly a quarter of all children who live in the two areas that are most affected by the continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine are in urgent need of immediate assistance and psychosocial support says UNICEF. These children need help to deal with the trauma of living through more than three years of violence. The children who most desperately need support live in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts which are within 15 kilometres of the line that separates government and non-government controlled which is where the fighting is at its fiercest.
“The world has forgotten about this invisible crisis in eastern Ukraine, but hundreds of thousands of children are paying a heavy price, one that could last a lifetime without adequate support. We urgently need funds to reach these traumatized children,” said UNICEF Ukraine Representative Giovanna Barberis.
Living in chronic fear
The children who live nearest to the line of control are living in chronic fear and uncertainty which is caused by the sporadic shelling and unpredictable breakout of fighting. They are also confronted by the dangers of landmines and other unexploded devices. These children risk their lives just to get an education. During the most recent escalation of violence that took place this year between February and March, seven schools were damaged. Over 740 schools or 20 per cent of schools in Eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the conflict back in 2014.
Children require intense psychological support
The vast majority of the 200,000 children that require intense psychological support in Eastern Ukraine are simply not receiving proper care. Services are underfunded and over extended. Social workers and specially trained teachers as well as psychologists are working 24 hours a day. However, as the proxy war continues additional funds are necessary to meet the needs of the children.
Appealing for donations
UNICEF is asking for donations totalling US$31.2 million in order to deliver support to these children and their families that have been scarred by conflict in Eastern Ukraine. This includes $5.5 million to deliver protection for children as well as psychosocial support. At present, UNICEF has not even received a third of the funds it needs and child protection is critically underfunded.
“Children should not have to live with the emotional scars from a conflict they had no part in creating. Additional support is needed now so that young people in Donetsk and Luhansk can grow into healthy adults and rebuild their communities,” said Barberis. “Children and their families urgently need peace. We call on all sides of the conflict to recommit to the ceasefire signed in Minsk to end this senseless violence.”
Last year a severe drought began which has affected arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya and potentially threatens millions of people. Unicef is providing aid to the Kenyan Government through the implementation of an emergency response effort that is saving the lives of households affected by the lack of rain and shortage of food. The agency is also strengthening its coordination activities with the government and monitoring the most vulnerable groups.
2.7 million people affected
The most recent data measured at the end of February suggests that 2.7 million people require water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) assistance. 1.1. million children are facing food insecurity whilst over 100,000 children are severely malnourished and in need of treatment. The drought has also forced 174,000 children to leave school.
National disaster declared
The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the drought a national disaster and has requested international support. Unicef is working with a number of other aid agencies to provide assistance and is the sector lead for nutrition, child protection, education and WASH. The agency is also expanding its sectoral coordination. Werner Schultink Unicef’s representative in Kenya says the agency should not only strive to alleviate the suffering but also help families become more resilient as well as improve the local government’s capacity to deal with future droughts and other natural disasters.
Through its partnership with other agencies and stakeholders, Unicef is delivering aid to children in 23 arid and semi-arid land counties. By January 2017 the agency had delivered 12,000 cartons of essential Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods for the treatment of 12,000 severely- malnourished children. Aside from the ability to enable people to access water, Unicef is working with county governments throughout Kenya to rehabilitate broken borewells and provide water purification commodities such as soap. The aid agency is committed to reaching all children and their families that have been affected by the drought and is scaling up its contribution to the Government led response.
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.