The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) expressed “extreme concern” today over reports that some 40 children from northern Iraq’s Yazidi minority group died as a result of the violence being carried out in the Sinjar region by militants belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups.
“According to official reports received by UNICEF, these children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days,” Marzio Babille, a representative from UNICEF said in a statement today.
Sinjar, a district of Ninewa in northwest Iraq with a population of at least 150,000 children – including many who are internally displaced – was taken over by the ISIL on Sunday.
“Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25,000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid including drinking water and sanitation services,” said Mr. Babille.
Children are particularly vulnerable and are most affected by the continuing violence, displacement and fighting in Iraq. UNICEF repeated its urgent call for all children to be protected and immediately provided with life-saving assistance to prevent further loss of life.
“UNICEF calls all those who have influence to immediately grant children and women free and safe access to areas of refuge and respect the special protection afforded to children under international humanitarian and human rights law,” Mr. Babille urged.
But those areas of refuge are few and far between, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which reports that displaced families are desperately in need of food, water, shelter and health care services. UN agencies along with their partners have distributed food rations, water, tents and hygiene kits to displaced families and are working with local authorities to provide further assistance.
In a statement later in the day, the UN Security Council condemned the attacks on Sinjar and Tal Afar, voicing particular concern about the vulnerable minority, Yezidis. Thousands of Iraqis from that community have been displaced in recent attacks.
The Council strongly condemned “the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations, including Christians, and those who refuse the extremist ideology of ISIL and associated armed groups,” the 15-members said.
They underscored that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable.