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UN Children's Fund warns millions endangered by preoccupation with Iraq

UN Children's Fund warns millions endangered by preoccupation with Iraq

The head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) appealed for urgent international help today for millions of children struggling to survive around the world because a preoccupation with Iraq has eaten into donor support and put them at risk.

"The Iraq crisis has virtually blocked out every other emergency in the world," Executive Director Carol Bellamy, said. "Donors have been reluctant to commit resources to other major humanitarian emergencies because they're uncertain how much they might be asked to do for Iraq. That's understandable, but it's a real crisis for children in need in other countries."

Noting that lack of donor support for non-Iraq emergencies, if it continues, could jeopardize the health, nutrition and development of millions of children. Ms. Bellamy said: "We need to invest in these children, not ignore them. Outside help is vital not only to keep children healthy and growing, but to plant the seeds of hope in their communities. If the world needs anything these days, it's hope."

Of the $501 million UNICEF requested for emergency programmes in more than 30 countries and territories for 2003, less than 14 per cent had been received by last month. Last year at the same time more than 30 per cent had already been met.

Twelve countries in the 2003 appeal have received no funding at all, including Colombia, the Central African Republic and Rwanda. Even major emergencies in places such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Afghanistan are severely under-funded, leaving millions of children in jeopardy, UNICEF said.