Protect children caught in conflict, UNICEF chief urges Middle East parties

Protect children caught in conflict, UNICEF chief urges Middle East parties

Carol Bellamy
Warning of the grave consequences the current conflict in the Middle East is having on the region's children, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today called on both sides to denounce violence and move towards peace.

Warning of the grave consequences the current conflict in the Middle East is having on the region's children, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today called on both sides to denounce violence and move towards peace.

"Over the last weeks, Israelis and Palestinians have terrorized each other's communities, without regard for homes, schools, health centres and other public spaces where children are present," said Carol Bellamy in a statement released in New York. "The impact of escalating violence on children's rights and well-being is both immense and lasting," she warned.

Calling for an immediate end to the violence, the UNICEF chief stressed that traumatic events such as the death or injury of family and friends, house-to-house searches, and the humiliating round-up and detention of fathers and brothers "cause irreparable damage to children's confidence in adults; increase their acceptance of violence as an adequate method for resolving problems; and dim their hope in the future."

Pending a ceasefire, Ms. Bellamy called on all sides to ensure that children are not targeted. In particular, she voiced concern over the confinement of Palestinian families at home under curfew, many without water, electricity, gas or adequate food. "UNICEF calls for the full co-operation of Israeli authorities in ending the curfews and guaranteeing women and children safe access to basic needs such as water, food, health services and education," she said.

The UNICEF Executive Director also pointed out that her agency and others in the area had been unable to operate in recent days, and called for immediate access to vulnerable communities suffering under curfews and military incursions.

"If today's generation does not have the opportunity to grow up in an atmosphere of trust, tolerance and justice, there can be little hope for stability in the region," said Ms. Bellamy. "It is the responsibility of Israeli and Palestinian adults to denounce violence and move toward peaceful solutions that offer real hope to their children and to future generations."