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UNICEF appeals for $763 million for emergencies outside media spotlight

UNICEF appeals for $763 million for emergencies outside media spotlight

Saying that people care deeply about youngsters caught in the emergencies that are highlighted by the news, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for more than $760 million to help children struggling to survive conflicts and other desperate situations around the world that have had little media attention.

"We are appealing to that same generosity of spirit that brought people and nations together around the tsunami crisis," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, thanking the donors who had shown the "tsunami spirit" in providing aid for victims of the 26 December disaster. "The New Year began with a new spirit of human solidarity, a realization that what happens in one corner of the world affects us all."

In the same spirit, she requested $763 million for children needing protection and basic services in 33 countries and territories. Some $289 million of it would go to children in post-conflict southern Sudan and to western Sudan's Darfur province, the latter having been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis before the tsunami hit.

Launching the appeal, along with UNICEF's annual report on children in crisis countries, Ms. Bellamy named the emergencies in the northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as among the worst.

The countries and territories listed included Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Two-thirds were African.

"The camera has a way of shifting focus when a new emergency strikes, constantly urging our attentions onward. But while we may forget some emergencies, we shouldn't forget the children who are caught up in them," Ms. Bellamy said.

"Every day, children are being killed, maimed and recruited to fight in wars," she added. "They are being wrenched from their families, forced to witness violence and to endure the slow and painful consequences of having their health neglected."

According to UNICEF, 45 per cent of the 3.6 million people killed in conflict during the 1990s were children. Millions of other children were seriously injured, permanently disabled, or were forced to endure sexual violence, trauma, hunger and disease. Around 20 million children were forced from their homes and communities by conflict.

A key necessity in treating children in such circumstances is to get them as soon as possible back to school where they are in easier reach of health care, food, water and sanitation, the agency said.