MILLIONS of children globally are facing the most humanitarian needs since the end of the Second World War, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said on Monday, December 5.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell stated this at the launch of the agency’s humanitarian action for children appeal for 2023.
Russell said more than 400 million children lived in areas under conflict worldwide.
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“An estimated one billion children – nearly half the world’s children – living in countries at extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
“At least 36.5 million children displaced from their homes – the highest number ever recorded. And eight million children under five across 15 crisis-hit countries at risk of death from severe wasting.”
Through donations, UNICEF reaches millions of children in crisis yearly, supporting their health, education and providing essential needs.
The agency noted that children worldwide faced a confluence of crises – from violence and displacement to infectious disease outbreaks and soaring malnutrition rates.
It also decried that climate change effects compounded the severity of the crises and unleashed new ones.
“Just this year, we have seen a wave of deadly climate-linked disasters, including catastrophic floods in Pakistan, historic drought in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, and blistering heat waves across parts of Europe, the Middle East and North America.
“And it is children who are bearing the brunt, with millions struggling to survive. The numbers are deeply troubling.”
Russell told the story of a boy she met recently at Ituri Province in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – an area hard-hit by conflict and attacks on civilians.
She visited a camp sheltering people who had been displaced by the violence at the camp.
Among the 36,000 children seeking safety was a 14-year-old boy named Blukwa.
Several months before, Blukwa had narrowly escaped being killed in a massacre of civilians in a nearby village.
During the attack, the boy witnessed the decapitation of his best friend – a horror so extreme that he wished he had died as well, Russell said.
“When we met, Blukwa was confronted with an uncertain future – displaced from his home, deeply traumatized, and with limited access to adequate nutrition, care and essential services.”
Consequently, the UN Chief opined that no child should ever experience such tragedy, trauma and acute deprivation, though more children need humanitarian assistance than at any other time since the Second World War.
She urged countries to remember that national borders do not bind humanitarian emergencies, adding that conflict and crisis in one part of the world could impact the lives of children thousands of miles away.
“But the situation is not hopeless. We know how to reach children at the greatest risk and need. With support from you – our partners – we have risen to the challenge before. We can, and we must, do it again.
“From Afghanistan to Somalia, from the Sahel to Yemen – UNICEF is on the ground in countries around the world, providing children with lifesaving assistance during humanitarian emergencies.
“We are strengthening the systems that children rely on – like health care, protection, water and sanitation – and making those systems more resilient to climate shocks. And we are working to anticipate crises so that we are more prepared to meet children’s needs as emergencies unfold.”
Quoting Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s late former leader, Russell said there could be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than how it treated its children.
She promised that by working with donors, the agency would reach the most vulnerable children, children suffering from malnutrition because of drought and children at risk of cholera and other infectious diseases.