UN children's agency calls for protection of schools and hospitals ahead of World Humanitarian Summit
NEW YORK and TORONTO, May 19, 2016 /CNW/ - An average of four schools or hospitals are attacked or occupied by armed forces and groups every day, according to UNICEF analysis released ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit taking place on May 23-24 in Istanbul.
UNICEF's findings, drawn from the most recent Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, come in the wake of recent attacks on education and health facilities and workers – including the bombing of schools in Yemen, and a strike on a hospital in Aleppo, Syria on April 27, that killed at least 50 people, including one of the area's last paediatricians.
"We can't ignore one simple fact: these attacks are killing children. There are clear obligations under international humanitarian law, which we must take into account," says David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "It is barbaric to involve children in war and conflict and the fact that they are being targeted in the very places they should be safe—schools and hospitals—is unconscionable. The lives of children we are supposed to protect at all costs are cut short through no fault of their own, and it must stop."
"The upcoming World Humanitarian Summit is Canada's opportunity to continue championing the rights of children in emergencies – as it has so effectively in the Syrian crisis – and to lead meaningful humanitarian reform," said Morley. "If Canada can bring its expertise in principled humanitarian response to the table, along with a continuing commitment to the protection of the world's most vulnerable children, we will go a long way to ensuring this Summit achieves its goals and saves more children's lives."
Attacks on schools, hospitals a rising trend
Attacks against schools and hospitals are one of the six grave violations against children identified and addressed by the UN Security Council. The last Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict documented more than 1,500 incidents of attacks on, or military use of, schools and hospitals in 2014, including:
- In Afghanistan, 163 schools and 38 health facilities were attacked.
- In Syria, 60 attacks on education facilities were recorded, as well as nine cases of military use of schools and 28 attacks on health facilities.
- In Yemen, 92 schools were used for military purposes by armed forces and groups.
- In South Sudan, there were seven incidents of attacks on schools and 60 involving military use.
- In the State of Palestine, a total of 543 educational facilities were damaged or destroyed and three attacks were documented on Israeli schools.
- In Northeast Nigeria, according to education authorities, a total of 338 schools were destroyed and damaged between 2012 and 2014.
"Children are being killed, wounded, and permanently disabled in the very places where they should be protected and feel safe," said Afshan Khan, UNICEF's Director of Emergency Programmes.
"Attacks against schools and hospitals during conflict are an alarming, and disgraceful, trend. Intentional and direct strikes on these facilities, and on health workers and teachers, can be war crimes. Governments and other actors need to urgently protect schools and hospitals by upholding the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and states must sign the Safe Schools Declaration."i
Over the past year, the UN monitoring system has also documented so-called 'double-tap', or even 'triple-tap', strikes on healthcare facilities in which civilians are attacked, as well as the first responders arriving on the scene.
Conflict has consequences on children's education, health
Beyond attacks on buildings, conflict has other far-reaching consequences on children's education and healthcare. In Syria, for example, as well as attacks on hospitals, the removal of medical kits and surgical supplies from aid convoys, restrictions on medevacs, and killing of medical personnel, mean that access to critical and life-saving healthcare for civilians in affected areas is diminishing day by day.
"Children are being abducted from their schools in horrific circumstances in countries like Nigeria and South Sudan, while others are being raped, or recruited and used as child soldiers," said Khan.
The very first World Humanitarian Summit will take place in Istanbul on May 23rd and 24th. Global leaders will discuss how to effectively respond to major humanitarian emergencies, and how to be better prepared to meet challenges of the future.
Photos and video are available for download here: http://uni.cf/23VoIj6
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i The Safe Schools Declaration, developed through state consultations led by Norway and Argentina in Geneva throughout the first half of 2015, provides states the opportunity to express broad political support for the protection and continuation of education in armed conflict, and is the instrument for states to endorse and commit to implement the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Declaration was opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools convened by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 29, 2015. A first group of 37 states endorsed it that day and that number has since been growing.
The following States have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration (as of April 27, 2016):
Afghanistan, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Zambia
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
Image with caption: "On March 3, 2016 in South Sudan, Chubat (right), 12, sits with her friend in the burned ruins of her school in Malakal Protection of Civilian site. The UNICEF supported primary school was burnt down in fighting on February 17-18, 2016, that left at least 18 people dead. (c) UNICEF/UN018992/George (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160519_C3125_PHOTO_EN_694661.jpg
For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866; 647-500-4320 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org