Jordan: Conflicts threaten lives of 24 million children in the Middle East, North Africa

Amman, Jordan (PANA) - Violence and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa have put in jeopardy the health of 24 million children in Yemen, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Libya and Sudan.

According to the UNICEF media channel, damage to health infrastructure is depriving children of essential health care. Water and sanitation services have been compromised, causing waterborne diseases to spread while preventative health care and nutritious food are insufficient to meet children’s needs.

“Violence is crippling health systems in conflict-affected countries and threatens children’s very survival,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, countless children are dying in silence from diseases that could easily be prevented and treated.”

In Libya, (where 450,000 children are in need), UNICEF said that last year, Libya recorded 20 attacks against health facilities, second only to Syria.

Immunization programmes have been facing challenges since the conflict erupted in 2011, with suspected measles cases reported among young children.

Without new funding, over 1.3 million children won’t be vaccinated against measles or rubella, putting these children – and others in the country – at risk of highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases.

In Sudan (where 2.3 million children are in need): UNICEF said over 8,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea have been recorded in just eight months in conflict-affected areas, including those hosting large numbers of refugees from South Sudan.

Cases of acute watery diarrhoea are set to rise rapidly once the rainy season begins in June.

It said the two-year conflict has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and plunged the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with widespread severe acute malnutrition among children.

Salaries for health care and sanitation workers haven’t been paid for more than seven months,

Contaminated water sources, untreated sewage and uncollected garbage, sparked a cholera outbreak with 323 associated deaths in the last month alone.

Two thirds of the population use unsafe water and health care facilities are struggling to cope with the volume of patients - many of them children - amid shortages of medical supplies and clean water.

According to UNICEF, in Syria 5.8 million children are in need as more than 2 million children live under siege and in hard-to-reach areas with little or no humanitarian aid.

In the Gaza Strip, 1 million children are in need; 5.1 million children are in need in Iraq where water supplies in camps for the displaced around Mosul are stretched to the limit with new families arriving daily, many with malnourished children.

It said that across these countries, UNICEF and its partners are working around the clock to provide vulnerable children with safe water, water treatment, medical and nutrition supplies to prevent the total collapse of essential health and water systems.

But as conflicts continue, and amid a shrinking humanitarian space, challenges to reach all vulnerable children with lifesaving assistance are growing.

It appealed for children’s needs to be prioritized in all conflict-affected countries through:
"Unconditional and sustained access to all children in need for UNICEF and other partners to deliver humanitarian assistance and supplies, including lifesaving medical items and vaccination, water purification material and waste treatment."

It called on parties to conflicts to put an immediate end to attacks on health facilities, saying that health facilities and civilian infrastructure should be protected at all times.
-0- PANA VAO/AR 24May2017

24 may 2017 16:26:13

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