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UN Children's Fund warns of war's disastrous potential for Iraqi youngsters

UN Children's Fund warns of war's disastrous potential for Iraqi youngsters

Carol Bellamy
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a stark warning today that the most vulnerable of Iraq's children may not have the strength to survive the impact of war.

"Conflict could very well have disastrous consequences for Iraqi children," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. "Malnourished children, children who have not been immunized, children who are displaced from their homes - all these children are at very high risk."

Noting that children make up half the population of Iraq and that UNICEF had carried out nutrition and immunizations programmes to boost the resilience of the most vulnerable children, Ms. Bellamy added: "But still the questions remains, will they be strong enough to survive?"

There was no way of knowing how many children might perish during war or its aftermath, since that would depend on how long war lasts and how it affects civilian infrastructure, Ms. Bellamy said. But, she warned, "children will die in this war. That's a fact. The question is how many children we can protect. That has got to be a priority for all of us now."

UNICEF said it had positioned thousands of tons of emergency relief supplies in Iraq and neighbouring countries to help mount a rapid response, including essential medicines, water purification tablets, therapeutic milk and other life-saving supplies.

Following the withdrawal of UN international staff from Iraq on Tuesday, UNICEF's work in the country is now in the hands of its 160 national staff members.