NEW YORK (February 12, 2014) – At least 500 women and children were among civilians evacuated from the besieged old city of Homs over the past few days during the ongoing humanitarian operation being undertaken by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. UNICEF staff accompanied children identified as vulnerable until they reached safety to ensure they were not separated from their families or otherwise placed at risk.
UNICEF staff also ensured that children arriving at the reception center outside the old city were immediately given high-nutrition supplements. A total of 380 children have received on-the-spot vaccination against polio, DPT, Hepatitis B, measles and other preventable diseases. Staff reported the presence of about 20 pregnant women among the evacuees.
"The children who came out looked frail and emaciated," said UNICEF's Tarek Hefnawy, who took part in the operation.
Despite coming under attack, the humanitarian convoy that entered Homs on February 8 delivered supplies, including water purification tablets provided by UNICEF, to support the remaining population. The humanitarian pause was the first that the UN has brokered in the embattled old quarter of the city, which has been under siege for more than 600 days. Before the humanitarian operation began, UNICEF estimated there were more than 1,000 children trapped in Homs.
"This is a very positive break-through but it can only be the beginning," said Youssouf Abdel Jelil, UNICEF Syria Representative.
"We remain extremely concerned over the fate of the children who are still trapped in Homs and in other besieged communities all over Syria. Parties to the conflict must protect children, respect humanitarian pauses and abide by international humanitarian law principles to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those who desperately need it," he added.
How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
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As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, firstname.lastname@example.org