Children are the most vulnerable in conflicts that have ravaged Nigeria and countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
According to the agency in a statement on Tuesday, the affected children face a bleak future unless the international community takes urgent action to protect and provide life-saving assistance to them.
It lamented that violent conflict was driving humanitarian needs to critical levels across the world.
In the statement by its director of emergency programmes, Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF said children around the world cannot wait for wars to come to an end.
“Children are the most vulnerable when conflict or disaster causes the collapse of essential services such as healthcare, water and sanitation. Unless the international community takes urgent action to protect and provide life-saving assistance to these children, they face an increasingly bleak future.
“Parties involved in various wars are showing ‘blatant’ disregard for children.” Mr. Fontaine said.
He also said girls and women face additional threats, as they often fulfill the role of collecting water for their families in dangerous situations.
“117 million people living through emergencies lack access to safe water and in many countries affected by conflict, more children die from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation than from direct violence.
“Without access to safe water and sanitation, children fall ill, and are often unable to be treated as hospitals and health centres either do not function or are overcrowded”, Mr. Fontaine said.
The agency therefore appealed for $3.6 billion (N1.3 trillion) to enable it provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to 48 million children living through conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies in 51 countries in 2018.
It said that approximately 84% of the appeal – $3.015 billion – would be used for work in countries affected by humanitarian crises borne of violence and conflict.
The statement also said the agency aimed to provide 35.7 million people with access to safe water; reach 8.9 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; immunize 10 million children against measles; provide psychosocial support to over 3.9 million children; and treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition.
Recounting its achievements in the past year, UNICEF said, 29.9 million people were provided with access to safe water; 13.6 million children were vaccinated against measles; 5.5 million children accessed some form of education; 2.5 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition; while 2.8 million children accessed psycho-social support in 2017.