Tag Archives: children

UNICEF: Children and women displaced by conflict in Pakistan need urgent and ongoing support

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Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Date: 03 Jul 2009 GENEVA, 3 July 2009

UNICEF is deeply concerned about the condition of thousands of children who have been displaced by conflict, or who remain in affected areas, in north-western Pakistan.

Nearly 50 per cent of the estimated 2 million displaced are children, many of whom are in urgent need of health and educational services, nutritional support, access to clean water and sanitation as well as protection. Their situation has been compounded by the harsh summer temperatures.

UNICEF is especially concerned that some 700,000 children are due to start the new school year in September in 3,700 schools that are currently occupied by 150,000 IDPs. If these schools are not vacated and rehabilitated soon, the education of all these children will be interrupted. Some of these children could even drop out of the education system permanently.

The speed and magnitude of the crisis has stretched the capacity of the government, host communities and humanitarian actors to the limit. Though fighting is reported to have subsided in Swat and Buner, IDPs continue to seek refuge in camps and communities in northern parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and new displacements are being recorded into southern parts of the province due to military operations in South Waziristan.

“In Pakistan we face a unique humanitarian challenge, since the vast majority of the displaced are seeking shelter in host communities which are far more difficult to reach with basic services than in the camps,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, Louis-Georges Arsenault.

While basic needs are being met in camps, the situation is critical for the vast majority of IDPs living in host communities. In the thousands of school buildings that have been converted into IDP shelters and other spontaneous camps that have sprung up throughout parts of NWFP to cope with the influx of people from conflict-affected areas, children and families are living in cramped conditions with limited to negligible access to safe drinking water and sanitation – and are difficult to reach with basic hygiene materials and education to decrease the likelihood of water borne diseases.

At equal risk are host communities who are shouldering the burden with limited resources and fragile infrastructure in the aftermath of food prices spikes that took root in 2007. UNICEF is working closely with the government of Pakistan and other partners to provide services and information to displaced children and women.

To prevent the outbreak of diseases, over 200,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and 230,000 people receive safe drinking water and hygiene education in IDP camps and communities. To date, 47,400 children and 20,400 mothers have been screened for malnutrition, and the 11,000 moderately malnourished have received care within their own communities. While malnutrition rates are presently low, the vulnerability of the population requires sustained support to prevent the situation from deteriorating rapidly.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, revised in May to cope with new displacements caused by the military operations in Swat and Buner, has so far raised less than a third of the $543 million required to support 1.7 million IDPs for six months. As part of the Appeal, UNICEF requested $52 million. To date $22.5 million has been received from donors and is in hand –and another $9.3 million has been pledged. “Without sufficient funding, it will be impossible to ensure that thousands of children and families affected by the conflict have the services and support they require in the time of their greatest need. Equally important is support to the host communities who are struggling to cope with their new found burden,” said Arsenault.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.

In Pakistan and elsewhere, it has provided vital relief and reconstruction support to help individuals rebuild their lives after emergencies. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Kathryn Grusovin, UNICEF Islamabad, Tel +92-300-5018542, E-mail: kgrusovin@unicef.org.

A Sami Malik, UNICEF Islamabad, Tel +92-300-8556654, E-mail: asmalik@unicef.org.

http://www.unicef.org/Pakistan

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Aid agencies call for better access to Gaza.

 

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“The people of Gaza have reached breaking point and it’s hard to describe in words how desperate people are. We believe 70 percent of the population are without water and electricity and food is running out. Our aid efforts have been severely restricted due to the level of violence ” IR’s Hatem Shurrab.
Aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to distribute urgent emergency relief as the military attacks intensify in the densely populated Gaza Strip home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Thirteen days into the Gaza conflict aid agencies Islamic Relief and CAFOD are warning that the humanitarian crisis is deepening hour by hour.

Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s Director of International Division, says a three-hour occasional halt to military activities is insufficient to allow meaningful movements of aid to reach those in need.

“Time is of the essence. It is imperative that a secure humanitarian corridor is established within the next 24 to 48 hours to allow immediate delivery of essential supplies and skilled personnel to help deal with this humanitarian crisis.”

“While this would allow some short-term relief, it is no substitute for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and rocket attacks into Israel,” he said.

According to reports from aid workers in Gaza 70 percent of people no longer have running water in their homes. This is as a result of electricity shortages and the damage caused to the water systems. There are also severe food shortages with people risking their lives to queue for up to ten hours on the streets for bread.

Mr O’Donoghue also warned of impending health issues.

“As essential food, water, health and sanitation services collapse or are destroyed it is inevitable that disease will add to the mounting list of civilian casualties caused by the military action,” he said.

Hospitals are now entirely reliant on generators dependent on scarce fuel supplies, and with no fuel entering Gaza many life-saving machines are unable to run.

Hatem Shurrab an aid worker with IR said, “The people of Gaza have reached breaking point and it’s hard to describe in words how desperate people are. We believe 70 percent of the population are without water and electricity and food is running out. Our aid efforts have been severely restricted due to the level of violence.”

IR’s aid team on the ground report that hospitals are running out of supplies of medication. Hospitals are also facing shortages of beds and medical equipment and staff report that some operations have had to take place without the use of anaesthetic. Only one quarter of health staff are working because of restrictions on movement. Vaccination programmes have stopped, heightening the risk of disease, especially amongst children.

Palestinian medical sources say that over 680 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict started, many of them women and children and many thousands injured. Aid workers say that around 30 percent of those who have been killed or injured are children.

“People in Gaza are exhausted and traumatised, and are in desperate need for an end to this nightmare. We need the bombs to stop so we can get aid out to the most vulnerable people whose suffering is increasing day by day’’ said Shurrab.

For more information please contact:

Helen Mould (Islamic Relief) on (00 44) 121 622 0719 or mobile: (00 44) 7855 499 645

Nana Anto-Awuakye (CAFOD) on (00 44) 207 095-5560 or mobile: (00 44)7799 477 541

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Humanitarian desperation in Gaza

“The only talk must be of ceasefires and peace, and the safety and rights of ordinary people must be the urgent top priority.”

By Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Two days ago an Oxfam employee living in Gaza risked a desperate drive from his house to find some fresh food for his four young children. There is no fruit or meat and little milk in Gaza now, but he found a few expensive vegetables. And then, because of ongoing bombing and bullet fire, he had to drive around and around the streets near his house, because a parked car is a sitting target until, in the briefest of lulls, he could dash into his home to his terrified family.

Oxfam has had to suspend much of its work within Gaza including one of its largest programs – assisting 65,000 people – for security reasons, though a number of Oxfam partners continue to carry out essential work against impossible odds. UN food aid, relied on by 80% of the Gazan population of 1.5 million, has been severely disrupted for the last week because of the bombing.

Gaza’s civilian population has already borne the brunt of an increasingly severe blockade for the last 18 months, impeding access to a wide range of goods and supplies and making it hard for people to move freely in and out of Gaza. It has been a form of collective punishment illegal under international humanitarian law yet tolerated by the international community.

Now with the ground incursion on the back of a week-long bombing campaign a critical humanitarian situation has become a desperate one. One local Oxfam staff member in Gaza describes power blackouts, people trapped in their homes by the violence – cold, with windows open so they are not blown in by bombs, children screaming in the night.

Lack of fuel is one of the major problems, shutting the Gaza power plant and leaving many people without power for most of the day. Bombing has also damaged power lines and energy-generating infrastructure. Without fuel and power, pumps for wells and water sanitation will increasingly go out of action. Hospitals overwhelmed by casualties are desperately working with back-up generators – if they crash (through overuse or when fuel stocks finally end), desperation will become devastation.

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It is way past time for both Israel and Hamas to renounce violence and to respect the rights of ordinary people. The vulnerable civilians of Gaza, including thousands of children, urgently need an immediate and permanent ceasefire strictly implemented by both sides.

EU and other politicians talk of possible ‘humanitarian pauses’- to a clear negative response so far from the Israeli side. Any pause in hostilities must be welcome; its rejection is gravely disappointing. But a brief cessation of hostilities on its own cannot relieve the increasingly critical situation for ordinary people in Gaza.

They are mostly dependent on regular food aid and are reeling from a week of bombing. They cannot be supplied adequately with cooking fuel or food stocks in a ‘pause’ from attacks of a day or two. Nor can overwhelmed hospitals create more bed space, or give proper treatment to the injured, in the before more dead and injured arrive at their doors. Nor can children go back to school for two days only to then cower frightened at home, nor can the serious work begin of tackling the psychological damage that many civilians suffer in war.

A ceasefire must be combined with a lifting of the blockade so Gazan civilians have access to a wide range of supplies, not just the restricted food, medicines and basic goods that were being allowed through before the bombing started. Humanitarian workers need to be able to work freely in the Gaza Strip without risking their own lives.

Much greater pressure needs to be put on both Israel and Hamas. International players, especially the UN, but also the EU, League of Arab States and others should be engaged in rapid and urgent shuttle diplomacy in the region, engaging intensively to get both to a short run ceasefire and to serious longer term peace talks.

We need an immediate UN security council resolution condemning both the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government and indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas. It should demand an immediate, comprehensive and permanent truce and an end to the blockade, allowing access for humanitarian and commercial goods, and for people too.

There must be no business as usual in international politics in the Middle East until Gazans have a chance to eat, drink and move around with some degree of normalcy, not cower in their homes wondering if and how they will survive. The only talk must be of ceasefires and peace, and the safety and rights of ordinary people must be the urgent top priority.

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UN: IDF officers admitted there was no gunfire from Gaza school which was shelled

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By Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from inside an UNRWA school in Gaza which was shelled by an IDF tank.

Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the shelling.

In addition, UNRWA Thursday announced it will cease activities in the Strip due to the death of an UNRWA staffer in an IDF shelling during Thursday morning’s humanitarian hiatus.

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UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing.

“In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school,” Gunness said. “The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional.”

He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself.

“There are no up-to-date photos,” Gunness said. “In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over.”

The UNRWA is now demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law, and if so, that those responsible stand trial.

The UN reported Thursday that a Palestinian working for the UNRWA was killed by an IDF tank shell while driving an aid truck at the Erez border crossing. The organization claims the UN truck was well-marked and the incident took place during the humanitarian hiatus slated to allow Gaza residents to acquire supplies

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SPARE THE CHILDREN

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Afghan conflict claiming more child casualties as insurgency spreads, UN report finds

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Children are being killed, exploited and abused in ever-increasing numbers in Afghanistan as the violence across the conflict-ridden country worsens, the United Nations says in a new report released today.

The report on the impact on children of Afghanistan’s armed conflict shows that all sides to the fighting – which pits the army and allied international forces against the Taliban and other insurgents – have committed numerous violations and abuses against the young.

The Taliban is persisting in using children as suicide bombers, while international and Afghan forces have inadvertently killed dozens of children as they attempt to beat back the insurgency, according to the report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which detailed several examples.

“On 16 May 2008, a boy of approximately 12 years of age approached a joint International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-Afghan National Army foot patrol in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province spreading his hands,” the report says. “The suicide vest he carried is believed to have been remotely detonated.”

In November last year, a suicide bombing that targeted parliamentarians on a road in northern Baghlan province led police and bodyguards to fire indiscriminately. Various independent reports indicated that the approximately 70 dead included 52 schoolchildren.

“Insurgent influence has intensified in areas that were previously relatively calm, including in the provinces closest to Kabul [the Afghan capital]. The number of security incidents rose to 983 in August 2008, the highest number since the fall of the Taliban in 2001,” the report adds.

It also notes that since the completion of the Government’s demobilization and reintegration of 7,444 under-age soldiers in 2003, there has been no monitoring of children vulnerable to further recruitment or re-recruitment.

A study of suicide attacks by UNAMA documented cases of children reportedly used as suicide bombers by the Taliban. Most were between 15 and 16 years of age and were tricked, promised money or forced to become suicide bombers.

Mr. Ban expresses concern in the report that there are children in the ranks of the Afghan National Auxiliary Police, conducting patrols, guarding police posts and carrying out checkpoint duties. In the south, two recently recruited 14-year-old boys were successfully released after an intervention with the authorities.

The Secretary-General also describes a number of disturbing cases involving children – especially boys – being sexually abused and exploited by members of the armed forces and armed groups. One case involved two police officers who were arrested for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in a south-eastern province, but later released after bribing the authorities.

“I encourage the Government of Afghanistan to implement more fully laws and programmes to prevent and punish sexual violence and to support victims, monitor grave sexual violations against boys as well as girls and work with my team in Afghanistan to study ways and means of combating harmful practices,” he writes.

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Report: Ugandan rebels sold abducted children to fight in Darfur

Kampala_(dpa) _ Most of the estimated 30,000 children abducted by Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during its two-decade-long war with the government were sold to fight in Sudan’s restive Darfur province, Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported Wednesday.

The children were first forced by the LRA to fight and commit atrocities. Afterward, they were sold to various rebel armies in Darfur to fight or to serve as sex slaves, the newspaper quoted Stephen Kagoda, permanent secretary in the Ministry for Internal Affairs, as telling parliament.

“Some of these children are in Darfur being used as child soldiers, porters and others were sold as sex slaves to the Sudanese,” Kagoda told a parliamentary committee working on an anti-child trafficking bill.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when black tribesmen took up arms against what they called decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in five years of conflict.

The LRA, which has yet to make peace with the government in Kampala, has received support from the Sudanese government in the past. However, it was forced from its bases in southern Sudan in late 2004 and fled to the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aid agencies in the DRC say that the Ugandan rebels are carrying out attacks against Congolese civilians, and have already displaced at least 50,000 people from their villages in the country’s north-eastern Ituri region.

Peace talks began between the Ugandan government and the LRA in mid 2006, but the rebels have refused to sign the final peace treaty.

The LRA insists the International Criminal Court (ICC) first remove arrest warrants it slapped on five of its leaders for war crimes.

“(LRA leader Joseph) Kony is afraid to come out of the bush because we shall ask him to show us our children,” Kagoda said. dpa hw ml ncs sc

Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – spare the children, allow them to study and learn.  They are future leader.  Think about your own children… would you like them to be treated in such manner? 

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