UNICEF Launches $3.1 Billion Aid Appeal to Help Children in Crises

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Children on the street in Kobane, Syria on January 27, 2015 after it has been freed from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Anadolu Agency/Rauf Maltas

Published Friday, January 30, 2015

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a record $3.1 billion aid appeal on Thursday to help 62 million children at risk from a "new generation" of humanitarian crises.

The threats ranged from the brutal war in Syria that shows no sign of ending after nearly four years to the Ukraine conflict and the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

"From deadly natural disasters to brutal conflicts and fast-spreading epidemics, children across the world are facing a new generation of humanitarian crises," said Afshan Khan, UNICEF's director of emergency programs.

"The scale of the crises, their duration and impact are unprecedented," she told AFP, adding "conflicts are increasingly taking on sub-regional dimensions."

Khan said although child fighters had often been recruited for wars in poorer countries, it was now increasingly becoming common in middle-income nations such as Syria.

"We have information that thousands of children, mainly boys between the age of 13 and 18, are being recruited by armed groups in Syria," she said.

"What is new is also that the groups are paying stipends to the families of the children," Khan said.

The aid appeal is $1 billion higher than last year and targets 98 million people — two-thirds of them children — in 71 countries.

Khan said 20 percent of the total aid appeal was aimed at investment in education, "the bridge to the future."

According to UNICEF, more than one in 10 of the world's children — or 230 million — currently live in countries and areas hit by armed conflicts.

The largest chunk of the appeal — $903 million — is aimed at helping children in Syria and the sub-region.

"Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in December. "Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality."

"Violence and trauma do more than harm individual children — they undermine the strength of societies," he added.

"Half of the children in Syria are out of schools and one-third of the schools have been destroyed," said Khan, who has just returned from a tour of Syria.

In Syria, UNICEF said more than 7.3 million children have been affected by the war, including 1.7 million who fled the country. Meanwhile, in neighboring Iraq an estimated 2.7 million children have been affected by ongoing violence, it added, with at least 700 believed to have been maimed or killed this year.

"In both countries, children have been victims of, witnesses to and even perpetrators of increasingly brutal and extreme violence," UNICEF said.

Earlier in January, UNICEF said nearly 670,000 children in Syria are being deprived of education after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group ordered the closure of schools until the curriculum is made to conform with its medieval reading of the Islamic Sharia.

Similarly, in early September, UNICEF warned of an “education emergency” that Iraqi children were facing after being forced from their homes, with hundreds of schools used to shelter displaced families.

Prior to 2011, Syria had one of the best rates of basic education enrollment in the Middle East with 96 percent. The number is currently estimated to be lower than 40 percent, according to a 2014 report by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The report also said that the effects of this drop in enrollment and access to proper education is expected to impact the country severely for many generations to come.

Moreover, in December, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos warned Syria had slumped from a middle income country to struggling with widespread poverty.

"People affected by conflict need food, shelter, water, medicine and protection. But they also need support in rebuilding their livelihoods, maintaining education and health services and rebuilding fragmented communities,” Amos, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said.

"The conflict in Syria is not only destroying people's lives today but will continue to erode their capacity to cope far into the future if we don't take a more holistic approach now," she added.

On Wednesday, the assistant secretary-general for aid Kang Kyung-wha reiterated Amos’s point: "This council must find a way to end the conflict in Syria," noting that in four years, the number of Syrians in need of assistance had surged from one million to 12 million.

UN agencies received less than half of the amount requested for last year, leaving "hundreds of thousands" of civilians without aid during the harsh winter months, Kang said.

"More funding is urgently required," she told the council.

After meeting behind closed doors to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis, the Security Council called on world governments to support the Syria aid effort.

Conflicts, starvation and other threats

Meanwhile, UNICEF is also seeking $32.5 million for Ukraine, where about 5.2 million people are living in war zones, over 600,000 people have been internally displaced and some 1.7 million children have been affected by the conflict.

The appeal also targets donations for hugely underfunded crises which have fallen off the radar such as Afghanistan (35 percent funded in 2014) and Palestine (23 percent funded last year).

"Afghanistan cannot afford to be forgotten just because it is no longer in the headlines," Khan said, adding "severe malnutrition affects more than 30 percent of children and we cannot forget that."

Another major problem area is Nigeria where attacks by the Islamist Boko Haram group have intensified, displacing more than one million people in the northeast.

Human Rights Watch said in October that more than 500 women and girls have been abducted since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, although other estimates put the figure much higher.

"I don't see the Boko Haram menace ending in the near future and what is very worrying for us is that the kidnapping of children, especially girls, is spilling over from Nigeria to neighboring countries," Khan said.

"We could be faced with a huge humanitarian sub-regional crisis," she added.

Moreover, the agency is also targeting raising $500 million to help Ebola victims in west Africa and prevent fresh outbreaks.

"Around a quarter of the Ebola cases here have been in children," said Peter Salama, UNICEF's emergency coordinator for the disease.

The Ebola mortality rate is higher in children, he said, adding that 16,000 children in west Africa had lost their parents or guardians to the disease.

The response to the Ebola crisis was "the biggest logistics operation in UNICEF's history with 5,000 metric tons of supplies delivered in the past six months," Salama said.

UNICEF’s appeal comes concurrently with UN experts saying that there are over 38,000 Somali children at "high risk" from dying from starvation despite hunger levels improving by almost a third across the war-torn nation.

"Malnutrition rates remain stubbornly high," UN aid chief for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini said. "The outlook for 2015 is worrisome."

More than 250,000 people, half of them children, died in the devastating 2011 famine.

In August, the Somali federal government called for an emergency international life saving campaign to protect hundreds of thousands of people from starvation.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top