Fighting in Sudan puts millions of children at risk: Unicef

United Nations, April 21 (IANS) UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) Executive Director Catherine Russell has warned that escalating military clashes in Sudan has put millions of children at risk.
Five days of intense fighting in Sudan has already taken a devastating toll on the country’s children. If the violence does not stop, this toll will only increase, Russell was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.
At least nine children have reportedly been killed and over 50 others reportedly injured as hostilities continue in Khartoum, the Darfur and North Kordofan regions, she noted. “The perilous security situation across the country makes it very difficult to collect and verify information. But we know that while fighting continues, children will continue to pay the price.”
Many families are trapped in the crossfire, with little or no access to electricity, terrified about the fighting and the possibility of running out of food, water and medicine. Thousands of families have been forced from their homes in search of safety, she said.
“We have received reports of children sheltering in schools and care centers while fighting rages around them, of children’s hospitals forced to evacuate as shelling moves closer, and hospitals, health centres and other critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed, limiting access to essential and life-saving care and medicine,” she said.
The fighting has disrupted critical, life-saving care for an estimated 50,000 severely acutely malnourished children. These vulnerable children need ongoing, round-the-clock care, which is being put at risk by the escalating violence, she added.
Russell said the fighting also puts at risk the cold chain in Sudan, including vaccines and insulin worth over $40 million, due to the breaks in the power supply and the inability to restock generators with fuel.
Even before the escalation in violence, humanitarian needs in Sudan were higher than ever before. Humanitarian assistance is critical. But UNICEF and partners cannot provide that support if the safety and security of their staff are not guaranteed, she said. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the loved ones of the WFP (World Food Programme) colleagues who lost their lives or were injured. UNICEF, and other humanitarian agencies, have been looted by armed individuals. Such attacks on aid workers and organisations are attacks on the children and families we serve.”
UNICEF echoes the appeal of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for forces to immediately cease hostilities, and calls on all parties to respect their international obligations to protect children from harm, and to ensure that humanitarian actors can safely and quickly reach children in need. UNICEF also calls on all parties to refrain from attacking civilian infrastructure on which children depend, such as water and sanitation systems, health facilities and schools, said Russell.

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