Middle East: Terrifying surge in violence affecting children ‘must stop’ – UNICEF
Children across the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) are again confronting a surge in violence, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday, describing the “unacceptable reality” that on average, over 10 children have been killed every week since the beginning of the year.
“Children in the region continue to suffer the devastating impact of protracted conflicts, communal violence, explosive ordnance and remnants of war, and political and social unrest that permeate several countries”, the UN agency said, including in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Before marking the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on Sunday’s World Children’s Day, UNICEF raised the alarm that nearly 580 children have been killed in conflict or violence across the MENA region this year, with many others injured.
Case in point
Just this week, two young girls were found brutally murdered in Al-Hol camp for displaced people, many of whom are family members of former terrorist fighters, in northern Syria – just the latest act of horrific violence there.
And while a UN-supported truce in Yemen has led to a significant reduction in the intensity of the conflict and the number of victims, it expired last month – again leaving children potentially in the crosshairs.
Conflict in Blue Nile and West Kordofan States has also left children in Sudan vulnerable and exposed to violence.
Terror in Iran
At the same time, UNICEF remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured, and detained in Iran.
Despite a lack of official data, since late September an estimated 50 children have reportedly lost their lives in public unrest there.
The latest horrible loss was 10-year-old Kiyan, who was shot dead while in the car with his family.
“This is terrifying and must stop”, UNICEF spelled out.
A heavy price
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl was killed near Ramallah – bringing the number of children killed in Palestine to 49, since the start of the year.
And violence in Tripoli earlier in the year took the lives of at least three children in Libya.
Moreover, in Iraq explosive ordnances from previous conflicts continue to put the children’s lives at risk, killing and injuring 65 this year so far.
UNICEF is alarmed that children are continuing to pay a heavy price for violence and conflict.
The UN agency reminded that the Convention of the Rights of the Child provides a universal set of standards to be adhered to by all countries – including the principle of non-discrimination; that children’s best interests be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children; and, critically, their right to life.
States party to the Convention are under obligation to protect children in conflict and violence and guarantee their inherent right to life.
“The right of children to be protected from violence should be upheld at all times and by all parties to conflicts”, said UNICEF. “Violence is never a solution, and violence against children is never defensible”.