For the sake of Nepal's children, the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today urged the parties to that country's conflict to ensure that the ceasefire is swiftly followed by a peaceful resolution of the clashes, which has had an increasingly sever impact on youngsters and women.
Meeting with King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand to discuss the situation of children in the current conflict, Carol Bellamy said the ceasefire and the promise of all-party talks have provided a "ray of hope for Nepal's 11 million children." Ms. Bellamy is in Kathmandu taking part in a high-level regional meeting on slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Asia.
Ms. Bellamy urged the parties to keep Nepal's children at the forefront of their negotiations. "By focusing on their shared responsibilities for the safety and well-being of children," she said, "leaders can find common ground and an undeniable imperative to build a lasting peace."
Throughout the conflict, UNICEF has been particularly concerned that the violence has had a direct toll on children - including thousands who have been killed, orphaned or traumatized. "This is unacceptable," Ms. Bellamy said, noting that not even the schools have provided a safe haven for the children. "No one should come to a school bearing arms."
Ms. Bellamy suggested that as part of efforts to build confidence in achieving a peaceful solution, codes of conduct should be agreed upon and monitored, particularly that no children be recruited or used as soldiers, no political activities take place in schools, that school operations not be disrupted and that teachers and students not be harassed.
The agency chief added that similarly health facilities and health workers must also be protected and that free passage should be guaranteed for all essential drugs food and other humanitarian services.