"Children are the first to suffer"

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban’s remarks at the UN Security Council briefing on Children and Armed Conflict.

Kind zeigt Handy in Kamera.
6-year-old Fatima from Khartoum shows a photo of her family before they had to flee from the outbreak of war in Sudan. Fatima experienced the harsh reality of displacement and misses her familiar home very much. "I remember that we had red doors and my room was beautiful. The new house is crammed full of wooden pallets and has no privacy."

"Around the world, as conflicts proliferate, grave violations against children continue. The denial of humanitarian access is a particularly pervasive, multifaceted, and complex grave violation.

"It can mean parties arbitrarily restricting access, including through the suspension of essential services, restrictions of movements of civilians to reach assistance and protection, bureaucratic and administrative impediments. It can also mean outright attacks on facilities providing life-sustaining services, including, for instance, water and sanitation installations, attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel, and besiegement tactics. These actions have devastating humanitarian consequences for children.

"I visited Gaza in January for the second time since October and witnessed a staggering decline in the conditions of children. Widespread destruction of logistical infrastructure, a quasi blockade on the north of Gaza, repeated denials for or delays in granting access of humanitarian convoys, fuel shortages and electricity and telecommunications blackouts have been devastating for children. Attacks on humanitarian workers have also gravely affected humanitarian access with the highest UN staff death toll in our history, our UNRWA colleagues in particular, and new attacks this week with the death of our World Central Kitchen colleagues, humanitarian workers trying to feed starving people.

"As a result of these constraints, children cannot access age-appropriate nutritious food or medical services and have less than 2 to 3 litres of water per day. The consequences have been clear. In March, we reported that 1 in 3 children under 2 years of age - in the Northern Gaza Strip suffer from acute malnutrition, a figure that has more than doubled in the last two months. Dozens of children in the Northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks and half the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity.

"In Sudan, the world’s worst child displacement crisis, the violence and blatant disregard for permission to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance essential to protect children from the impact of conflict in Darfur, in Kordofan, in Khartoum and beyond have greatly intensified their suffering. We are seeing record levels of admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) – the deadliest form of malnutrition--but insecurity is preventing patients and health workers from reaching hospitals and other health facilities. Assets and staff are still being attacked. The health system remains overwhelmed resulting in a severe shortage of medicines and supplies, including life-saving items, due to the severe interruption of the supply management system. Worse, our inability to consistently access vulnerable children means that protection by presence is simply not possible and that risks of other grave violations may escalate without an attendant rise in our ability to monitor or respond.

"And in Myanmar, the intensified conflict and significant increase in restriction of humanitarian access have hindered critical humanitarian assistance and UNICEF partners have had to relocate or postpone planned life-saving responses to ensure staff safety in some areas. As the country enters the peak of its dry season, access to safe water is a major challenge for an already struggling population, including six million children in need of humanitarian assistance, many living in hard-to-reach areas.

"Since the establishment of the Monitoring Rights Mechanism, the UN has verified almost 23,000 incidents of denial of humanitarian access, with nearly 15,000 verified over the past five years and 3,931 incidents in the last Secretary General’s report, a stubbornly high figure.

"Lack of access to humanitarian services creates greater vulnerability and increases other child rights violations. Children are the first to suffer and the ones who will carry the longest-lasting humanitarian consequences. Parties have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure children’s access to humanitarian services.

"Around the world, our teams on the ground are working under increasingly difficult operational circumstances to access children. UNICEF has increased our investment in humanitarian access specialists to better reach children in some of the most challenging access contexts in which we operate including Haiti, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Our commitment is to negotiate with all parties and to stay and deliver for children.

"UNICEF fully supports the development of tools to strengthen the UN’s monitoring and reporting on the denial of humanitarian access and we will accompany the Office of SRSG Gamba in its development of a guidance note to this end. It is important, in this process to build on and strengthen the systems in place, including those established and used by OCHA and the humanitarian agencies in this domain.

"Our ability to sustain access can be greatly enhanced by the work of the Security Council.

"First, in the same vein as UN Security Council Resolution 2664, we call on you to strengthen carve-outs designed to protect humanitarian access. Humanitarian agencies need to be able to engage with all armed groups for the purposes of humanitarian access to affected populations without fear of consequences.

"Second, we call on you to use your influence to press States and non-state armed actors to prevent and end denial of humanitarian access to children – protect humanitarian actors and allow humanitarian organizations to safely and timely reach those in most need, across front lines and across borders. This includes ensuring that any assistance provided to any party to conflict is accompanied by a robust assessment of the consequences to humanitarian access.

"Third, we are counting on you to support the UN’s efforts to implement CAAC monitoring and advocacy on the ground – both through resource allocation and through your commitment to work with us to protect humanitarian access to children, no matter where they are."