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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UN report exposes children’s denied humanitarian access in conflict areas

Gamba and other humanitarian leaders call upon all parties involved to uphold their legal and moral obligations.

In the heart of conflict zones around the globe, children are bearing the brunt of violence and deprivation. Despite clear international laws mandating the provision of humanitarian aid to children in need, a shocking reality persists: access to lifesaving assistance is being denied, perpetuating suffering and violating fundamental rights. As echoed by Virginia Gamba, the U.N. envoy on children and armed conflict, the situation demands urgent attention and action.

Violation of International Law

Gamba’s recent address to the Security Council highlighted a sobering truth: the denial of humanitarian access to children and attacks on aid workers contravene established international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child unequivocally stipulate the imperative of facilitating relief efforts for vulnerable children caught in the crossfire of conflict.

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Alarming Trends

According to Gamba’s office, nearly 4,000 cases of aid denial were verified in 2022 alone, with regions like the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Mali registering distressing levels of obstruction. Regrettably, subsequent data suggests a continuation of this detrimental trend. Such denial of aid access is not merely bureaucratic red tape; it directly translates into dire consequences for children, denying them essential nutrition, education, and healthcare.

Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Groups

The ramifications of aid denial extend further for particularly vulnerable groups, including disabled children. Deprived of critical support, their plight is compounded, accentuating the urgent need for inclusive humanitarian access. Moreover, gender disparities exacerbate the situation, with restrictions on girls’ movement impeding their access to aid, while boys face heightened risks due to perceived affiliations with opposing parties.

Challenges Faced by Humanitarian Workers

The obstacles confronting humanitarian workers are manifold and perilous. From arbitrary impediments to outright denial of access, attacks on personnel, and looting of aid, the environment in conflict zones is increasingly hostile. Such challenges not only jeopardize the safety and security of aid workers but also impede their ability to deliver crucial assistance to those in need.

Call for Action

In the face of these daunting challenges, urgent action is imperative. Gamba and other humanitarian leaders call upon all parties involved to uphold their legal and moral obligations. This includes facilitating safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, protecting essential civilian infrastructure like hospitals and schools, and ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel.

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Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director of UNICEF, echoed the urgent need for action, urging the Security Council to facilitate access for humanitarian organizations. He emphasized the necessity of exemptions in sanctions resolutions to enable aid groups to carry out their vital work without hindrance. Moreover, Chaiban stressed the importance of engaging with all armed groups to ensure access across borders and conflict lines.