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4 April 2002

UNICEF urges Mideast leaders to end violence for the sake of their children

Statement Attributable to UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 4 April 2002 - With the unprecedented escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United Nations Children's Fund is deeply concerned by the extensive use of violence by both sides and its immediate and long-term effects on children. Over the last weeks, Israelis and Palestinians have terrorised each other's communities, without regard for homes, schools, health centres and other public spaces where children are present. The impact of escalating violence on children's rights and well-being is both immense and lasting.

UNICEF calls for an immediate end to the violence. The psychological and social impact of armed conflict on children is incalculable. Traumatic events such as the death or injury of family and friends, house-to-house searches, and the humiliating round-up and detention of fathers and brothers cause irreparable damage to children's confidence in adults; increase their acceptance of violence as an adequate method for resolving problems; and dim their hope in the future. No lasting peace can be built upon such foundations.

In the immediate absence of a cease-fire, UNICEF strongly reiterates the need for both sides to abide by international humanitarian law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF urges all parties to ensure that children are not targeted and enjoy protection under all circumstances. UNICEF calls for immediate bans on the use of ammunition against children and on the destruction of homes, schools and health facilities.

UNICEF is disturbed by the confinement of Palestinian families at home under curfew, many without water, electricity or gas and with food stocks rapidly running out. Children are being denied access to health services, and are unable to attend school and engage in social activity. UNICEF calls for the full co-operation of Israeli authorities in ending the curfews and guaranteeing women and children safe access to basic needs such as water, food, health services and education.

The current situation threatens the ability of UNICEF and other UN and international agencies to carry out their mandate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Over the last five days UN humanitarian agencies have been denied safe access to affected Palestinian communities, making it nearly impossible to deliver crucial aid. UNICEF calls for immediate access to vulnerable communities suffering under curfews and military incursions.

UNICEF urges both sides to step back and consider the tragic effect their actions are having on all the children of the Middle East. If today's generation does not have the opportunity to grow up in an atmosphere of trust, tolerance and justice, there can be little hope for stability in the region. It is the responsibility of Israeli and Palestinian adults to denounce violence and move toward peaceful solutions that offer real hope to their children and to future generations.

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For further information, please contact:
Marc Vergara, UNICEF Media, Geneva (4122) 909-5517
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7126

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