UNICEF seeks emergency assistance for 48 million children
Enduring conflict continues to deepen in complexity in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, bringing new waves of violence and disruption for children and their families.
On Tuesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched an emergency appeal for $3.6 billion to provide lifesaving assistance in the face of what it describes as this “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”.
Almost one in four children are now living in a country affected by conflict or disaster.
Manuel Fontaine, director of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF, explained that children cannot wait for wars to end, while their immediate survival and long-term future is at risk.
He added that unless the international community takes urgent action, these children face an “increasingly bleak future”, while there was a “blatant disregard” for their lives.
One of the greatest threats to children is the spread of water-borne diseases, and 117 million people currently in emergency situations lack access to safe water.
“It is important to know that in many of the countries affected by conflict, actually more children die from water-borne diseases than actually die from the conflict.”
UNICEF notes that despite the enormous need for funds, considerable progress has been made with access to water, sanitation, health care and education.
Increased violence in DRC sees surge in refugees
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday it was alarmed by a recent surge in violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is driving large numbers across the border into Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.
DRC is still recovering from brutal conflict which led to the loss of 5 million lives between 1994 and 2003.
The situation is deteriorating as local conflicts escalate, said UNHCR’s Babar Baloch.
“Refugees we have spoken to say they fled forced recruitment, direct violence and other abuses by armed groups. Others say they fled in anticipation of military operations and out of fear. It is imperative that people fleeing the violence are allowed safe passage and that humanitarian access to the internally displaced is facilitated.”
Four times as many refugees crossed into Uganda during January compared with December, and since last week, almost 7,000 people have crossed into Burundi and an additional 1,200 to Tanzania; mostly by crossing Lake Tanganyika with small fishing boats.
Global Campaign for Palestinian Refugees
The UN relief agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) launched an $800 million appeal for Syria, Gaza and the Occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl said refugees continue to face violations of their human rights, and high levels of violence.
“There is a total absence of political horizon for anyone in the region, there is no serious process under way that would indicate any effort to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and Palestine and this of course creates great uncertainty, lack of clarity about what will happen. And when you combine it with a lack of personal horizon for so many Palestine refugees then you have a particularly delicate mix in the region.”
The appeal calls for $400 million in lifesaving aid to refugees based in war-torn Syria, and the same amount for those living in Gaza and the West bank.
The land, sea and air blockade in Gaza is now in its eleventh year, and the unemployment rate is among the highest in the world.
UNWRA recently launched its #DignityIsPriceless Global Campaign in response to the “unprecedented funding reductions” by the US Government announced two weeks ago.
Bronwen Cowley, United Nations, Geneva.