UNICEF Calls For Zero Child Deaths In Syria Next Year After Deadliest Year Of 2018

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UNICEF Calls for Zero Child Deaths in Syria Next Year After Deadliest Year of 2018

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is determined to make sure no Syrian kids are killed in 2020 after 2018 became the deadliest year for children in the country since the start of the armed conflict there eight years ago, Juliette Touma, the UNICEF regional chief of communications in the Middle East and North Africa, told Sputnik

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 14th March, 2019) The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is determined to make sure no Syrian kids are killed in 2020 after 2018 became the deadliest year for children in the country since the start of the armed conflict there eight years ago, Juliette Touma, the UNICEF regional chief of communications in the middle East and North Africa, told Sputnik.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement on Monday that in 2018 alone, 1,106 children were killed in the fighting, which is the highest number of Syrian kids killed in a single year since the start of the conflict. The United Nations estimates that 60 children have already died since the start of this year.

"Eight years of war, 8 million children inside Syria and in neighboring countries in need, 2018 - the deadliest year ... The war on children has to come to an end ... Next year, there has to be zero kids killed. Zero, this is exactly what needs to happen," Touma said.

UNICEF URGES FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

"[2018] was the worst, it couldn't get worse. But every year when we do the statistics, when we look at the numbers we are shocked once again to find out that we were wrong and that the war on children in Syria continues," the UNICEF representative said.

She stressed the need for collective action and support for international organizations like UNICEF to prevent the situation from deteriorating even further.

"While adults continue to kill children, what needs to happen is for organizations like my own to be able to do our job with no conditions, with open and free access. And for those who can - continue to support the organizations like UNICEF ... with assistance that they need, because without that the situation, which is very, very, very bad could be much, much worse," Touma underlined.

The chief of communications also expressed hope that those attending the third conference dubbed "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region," which started in Brussels earlier this week, would "for once listen to the plea of the children of Syria," who have not lost all hope.

CHILDREN SHOULD BE PRIORITY AT BRUSSELS III

According to Touma, the ongoing conference, also known as Brussels III, during which donors are expected to make financial pledges to support Syria, should pay special attention to the needs of children affected by the conflict.

"For the expectations from our side, UNICEF, that is to continue to have all those who are participating at this conference, especially the decision-makers, to prioritize the needs of children," she stressed.

Namely, UNICEF is requesting $1.2 billion for 2019 so that the organization could continue its operations in six different countries, including Syria and those that are hosting refugees, according to Touma.

"This is our claim; it's very similar to our claims from previous years. It focuses on providing humanitarian assistance to those who are most in need, and also focusing on education, water sanitation, and also on an area that is rarely covered, which is the psychological support to children affected by war and conflict," she said.

RETURN OF SYRIAN REFUGEES MUST BE VOLUNTARY

Touma stressed that Syrian refugee repatriation should be done on a voluntary basis, with a guaranteed conducive environment in Syria, including a complete end of violence on the ground.

"Without those factors, and also without access to basic services, including to schools, to hospitals, the return is incredibly difficult. So these are the areas, the factors that need to be met before any return could happen. People are asking for security and for safety before making any decision to return," she pointed out.

HUMANITARIAN ACCESS IN SYRIA NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

According to the UNICEF communications chief, in 2018 and the first months of this year, humanitarian access to a number of areas in Syria has "certainly improved." Yet, UNICEF is still unable to reach every single child in need.

"UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations ... must have all available access, unconditional humanitarian access so that we are able to reach every single child in need in the country, wherever they are in the country, to whichever means possible - through across the lines of operations inside Syria, or also across the border from Syria's neighboring countries," Touma said.

According to UNICEF, more than 5.5 million children in Syria are still in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including nearly half a million in hard-to-reach areas.

From January to December 2018, UNICEF and its partners provided about 4.6 million people with improved access to water and reached 1.7 million with mine risk education.

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