Statement attributable to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa
NEW YORK (January 15, 2019) – “Freezing temperatures and harsh living conditions in Rukban, at the southwestern border of Syria with Jordan, are increasingly putting children’s lives at risk. In just one month, at least eight children - most of them under four months and the youngest only one hour old - have died.
“In Rukban, where 80 percent of the estimated 45,000 population are women and children, extreme cold and the lack of medical care for mothers before and during birth, and for new infants, have exacerbated already dire conditions for children and their families.
“Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor has displaced an estimated 10,000 people since December. Families seeking safety face difficulties leaving the conflict zone and wait in the cold for days without shelter or basic supplies. The dangerous and difficult journey has reportedly killed seven children – most of them under a year old.
“The lives of babies continue to be cut short by health conditions that are preventable or treatable. There are no excuses for this in the 21st century. This tragic man-made loss of life must end now.
“Without reliable and accessible healthcare, protection and shelter, more children will die, day in, day out in Rukban, Deir-Ez-Zor and elsewhere in Syria. History will judge us for these entirely avoidable deaths.
“UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to provide safe passage for all families seeking safety out of the line of fire, and to facilitate access to lifesaving medical assistance for their children in Hajin and elsewhere in Syria.
“Needs for assistance in Rukban are beyond urgent. They are extremely acute and have become a matter of life and death.
“Once again, UNICEF calls on all sides to urgently facilitate a humanitarian convoy to Rukban, including mobile health clinics, so that lifesaving supplies and services can be delivered.
“Surely, this is not too much to ask when the lives of tens of thousands of children - children - depend on it.”
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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.