Unrelenting Libyan conflict plunging thousands of children at risk: UNICEF

Unrelenting Libyan conflict plunging thousands of children at risk: UNICEF

Agency News

New York, Jan 18: The United nation's agency providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children around the world -- UNICEF -- on Saturday voiced concern over deteriorating condition of children in war-torn Libya.

"Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the country’s long standing civil war." agency's Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

It said that since April last year, when hostilities broke out in Tripoli and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and civilians have deteriorated further. 'Indiscriminate attacks in populated areas have caused hundreds of deaths, and UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed or killed. Children are also being recruited to the fighting. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people, 90,000 of whom are children, have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced', the statement read.

Infrastructure on which children depend for their well being and survival has also come under attack. Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close. Attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom. Water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.

The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres. These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face.

“UNICEF and our partners are on the ground providing affected children and families with support in accessing healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation. We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres. Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts.

Terming the situation of children in Libya as dire and untenable, Ms Fore called on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over the country to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need. "We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention", she said.

Ahead of a planned peace summit in Berlin, Germany this Sunday, the UNICEF called on parties to the conflict and those who have influence over the region to urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya. (UNI)