The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned this Monday that nearly 37 million boys and girls around the world have been victims of “mass displacement” due to crises and armed conflicts, a figure without precedents since World War II.
During the presentation of its Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) Report for 2023, the UN agency recalled that “more and more children are exposed to historic droughts and floods due to the effects of climate change”, to which It has added “the proliferation of conflicts, political instability, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing migratory movements.”
In a year that began with 274 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, the situation has worsened exponentially throughout 2022, especially due to the war in Ukraine and food insecurity.
Thus, José María Vera, executive director of UNICEF Spain, regretted that since 2015 “the number of children who in one way or another need humanitarian aid has tripled” due to the “combination of several crises”. “This is called polycrisis and it has been reinforced by COVID-19 and has weakened health systems,” he explained before stating that “this has led to a setback in poverty indicators and vaccination processes” world level.
In this sense, he has warned that more than 400 million minors live in conflict zones, while some 1 billion face “extreme vulnerability”, especially in countries mired in armed conflicts. This is an unprecedented situation “that affects children” and makes humanitarian aid an “essential” issue to save their lives.
“This is exacerbated in conflict situations that fester. (…) The climate change crisis is already significantly affecting thousands of children around the world, such as the drought in the Horn of Africa and the floods in Pakistan”, Vera pointed out before stressing that “All of this combined has led to almost 37 million children being displaced, the highest number in decades.”
According to Vera, who has highlighted the importance of psychosocial support and access to drinking water, some six million minors face to “sexual exploitation and abuse” all over the world.
“We are aware that what we are doing is not enough, we need more because it is an unprecedented situation that leads us to have to redouble our efforts in places like Afghanistan or Ukraine, but also in forgotten areas that have the biggest gaps in their financing” , has underlined.
For this reason, it has made an appeal to obtain $10.3 billion (9,700 million euros) to be able to provide help to millions of children. “I ask all our partners to reinforce urgent humanitarian action in an appeal focused on saving lives,” she said.
Likewise, it has denounced that the situation is especially critical in countries such as Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, while the report points out that eight million children under the age of five live in fifteen countries plunged into a serious crisis.
SITUATION IN JORDAN
Joana Pérez, UNICEF Partnerships and Resource Mobilization advisor for the Middle East and North Africa, highlighted the case of Jordan, which presents “one of the highest levels of refugees per capita in the world”. “If we make the comparison with Spain, it is as if Spain had received 3.5 million refugees. This is the weight and hospitality of the Jordanian people”, he stressed.
“This region is characterized precisely by that, by refugees and internally displaced persons. The number of refugees in the region has been established, but the number of internally displaced persons continues to rise, with 30 per more. This region has been affected by conflicts but also by impressive heat waves that affect access to drinking water. Here you can see the consequences of climate change ”, he warned.
In addition, he has pointed out that 580 minors have died in the region this year alone, which is a “catastrophe” and an “unacceptable” figure that should prompt the international community to react. “Yemen is one of the most complex humanitarian crises and is the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world, and the impact of the war is devastating”has recalled.
At this point, he has stressed the importance of “remembering conflicts like the one in Syria”, which began twelve years ago. “As you know, the refugees from Syria have mostly left the country and are in countries like Turkey, Iraq, Egypt,” he said before adding that the refugees largely face “hateful rhetoric.”
However, he has emphasized the “great solidarity seen in Ukraine”, an issue that “gives hope”. “We are in solidarity, suffering has no passport,” she has settled.
UKRAINE AND HUMANITARIAN MOBILIZATION
The case of Ukraine has captured all eyes after the international community has turned to the country since the Russian invasion began in late February. Afshan Khan, UNICEF director for Europe and Central Asia and special coordinator for the response to the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, has emphasized that it is the “largest humanitarian mobilization in the world”.
“We thank those who have supported UNICEF since February, which has enabled access to medical treatment and clean water. (…) 1.3 million children have received educational support and 400,000 households with vulnerable families have received money”, he summarized.
However, he has warned that children in Ukraine are about to face “one of the darkest winterswith temperatures already dropping in some of the coldest areas of the country, where blackouts are taking place due to lack of fuel”.
The data collected by UNICEF does not include the number of children displaced due to poverty or climate change, nor those who have been forced to move due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which It has caused the most serious humanitarian crisis in the shortest period of time since the 1940s.
The document also states that many minors continue to live in a “limbo” because they lack official immigration status or access to education or basic medical treatment and recalls that conflicts account for 80 percent of humanitarian needs. “From Ukraine to Yemen, from Ethiopia to Nigeria, the parties must respect the basic rule of war: protect children,” he points out.
(with information from EP)
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