UN: ‘Shocking increase’ of children denied aid in conflicts

UN: ‘Shocking increase’ of children denied aid in conflicts
UN: ‘Shocking increase’ of children denied aid in conflicts

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Palestinian children fetch water in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, April 4 — A growing number of children caught up in armed conflicts around the globe are being denied access to critical humanitarian aid, a United Nations official warned yesterday, as relief operations come under attack or are blocked by governments.

The last report by the UN secretary-general on the rights of children in conflicts, published in June 2023, recorded nearly 4,000 confirmed cases of aid being denied to children, from Gaza to Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali.

“Data gathered for our forthcoming 2024 report shows we are on target to witness a shocking increase of the incidents of the denial of humanitarian access globally,” Virginia Gamba, the secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, told the Security Council yesterday.

She said last year’s figure already represented an “exponential” increase since 2019.

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“Cases of denial of humanitarian access are linked to the restriction of humanitarian activities and movements; interference with humanitarian operations and discrimination of aid recipients; direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure; disinformation and detention, violence against, and killing of, humanitarian personnel; and looting,” Gamba said.

She did not specify which countries would be singled out in the 2024 report, set to be released this summer.

Nearly half of the cases in last year’s report — 1,861 — were of Israeli forces denying aid to children in Gaza.

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That report came before the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel and the ensuing all-out war in Gaza.

The UN has since repeatedly denounced restrictions Israel has put on aid entering the war-torn territory.

“As a result of these constraints, children cannot access age-appropriate nutritious food or medical services and have less than two to three liters of water per day,” Unicef deputy executive director Ted Chaiban told the Council.

“The consequences have been clear,” Chaiban said, noting that one in three children in northern Gaza under two years old suffer from acute malnutrition, “a figure that has more than doubled in the last two months.”

Apart from Gaza, he also highlighted the threats to children’s access to humanitarian aid in Sudan and Burma.

In addition to access to humanitarian aid, the UN’s report on children and armed conflict also lists the number of children killed and wounded, as well as attacks on hospitals and schools.

From all the data points, the report draws up a “list of shame” of government forces and other armed groups responsible for the violations.

Last year’s report listed Russia’s military over its attacks on Ukraine, but excluded Israel, angering several NGOs which have called for its inclusion for years. — AFP

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