The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for $3.6 billion to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to 48 million children living through conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies in 51 countries in 2018.
The UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Dr. Manuel Fontaine, in a statement issued yesterday by the Agency Communications Specialist, Ms. Eva Hinds, noted that around the world, violent conflict is driving humanitarian needs to critical levels with children especially vulnerable.
According to Fontaine, conflicts that have endured for years, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen among other countries continue to deepen in complexity, bringing new waves of violence, displacement and disruption to children’s lives.
He said: “Children cannot wait for wars to be brought to an end with crises threatening the immediate survival and long term future of children and young people on a catastrophic scale around the world.
“Children are the most vulnerable when conflict or disaster causes the collapse of essential services such as healthcare, water and sanitation. Unless the international community takes an urgent action to protect and provide life-saving assistance to these children, they face an increasingly bleak future.
“Parties to conflicts are showing a blatant disregard for the lives of children. Children are not only coming under direct attack, but are also being denied basic services as schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure are damaged or destroyed. Approximately 84 per cent ($3.015 billion) of the 2018 funding appeal is for work in countries affected by humanitarian crises resulting from violence and conflict.
“The world is becoming a more dangerous place for many children with almost one in four children now live in a country affected by conflict or disaster. For too many of these children, daily life is a nightmare.”
Fontaine said the spread of water-borne diseases is one of the greatest threats to children’s lives in crises.
He stressed that attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure, siege tactics which deny children access to safe water as well as forced displacement into areas with no water and sanitation infrastructure leave children and families at the risk of relying on contaminated water and unsafe sanitation.
He stated that girls and women face additional threats, as they often fulfill the role of collecting water for their families in dangerous situations.
“117 million people living through emergencies lack access to safe water in many countries affected by conflict. Also, more children die from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation than from direct violence.
“Without access to safe water and sanitation, children fall ill and are often unable to be treated as hospitals and health centres either do not function or are overcrowded. The threat is even greater as millions of children face life-threatening levels of malnutrition, making them more susceptible to water-borne diseases like cholera, creating a vicious cycle of under-nutrition and disease,” Fontaine added.
The Emergency Programmes Director noted that as the leading humanitarian agency on water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies, UNICEF provides over half of the emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services in humanitarian crises around the world.
When disasters strike, he said UNICEF works with partners to quickly provide access to safe drinking water, sanitation services and hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease.
Fointaine also emphasised the fact that the largest component of UNICEF’s appeal this year is for children and families caught up in the Syria conflict, soon to enter its eighth year.
“UNICEF is seeking almost $1.3 billion to support 6.9 million children in Syria and those living as refugees in neighbouring countries,” he said.