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27 February 2024

Protect children in conflict zones


A UAE newspaper has said that it is hugely distressing to note that in January, escalating violence in conflict zones of countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria claimed the lives of at least 83 innocent children.

"Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has correctly described January as "a dark month" in Middle East and North Africa. Deadly violence has had a devastating toll on children, who are being killed in suicide attacks or freezing to death as they flee active warzones," said The Gulf Today in an editorial on Wednesday.

The paper said, "These children have paid the highest price for wars that they have absolutely no responsibility for. Their lives have been cut short, their families forever broken in grief. Take Syria for example. As the Syrian conflict enters its eighth year, intensifying fighting has killed as many as 59 children in the past month alone.

"A suicide attack took the lives of three children in Libya’s Benghazi while three others died playing near unexploded ordnance – a fourth child remains in critical condition after the blast. In the old city of Mosul in Iraq, a child was killed in a booby-trapped house, and in the Palestinian Occupied Territory, a boy was shot dead in a village near Ramallah.

"That’s not all. Sixteen refugees, including four children, froze to death in a harsh winter storm in Lebanon – fleeing the war in Syria – where many more children were hospitalised with frost bite."

The editorial went on to note Cappelaere's comments, when he said that not hundreds, not thousands but millions more children in the Middle East and North Africa region have their childhoods stolen, maimed for life, traumatised, arrested and detained, exploited, prevented from going to school and from getting the most essential health services; denied even the basic right to play.

"Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such brutality. At a time when they are supposed to be busy studying in schools, an estimated 152 million children around the world are busy working to earn for their families," it added.

The paper concluded by saying, "Children deserve to spared of such senseless violence. If at all there can be a plea that emerges from the hearts of all good human beings, it would be: 'Please spare innocent children from bloodshed. They are like flowers, completely innocent, utterly lovable and absolutely precious.'"