The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned last week that ongoing conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East have damaged health infrastructure and caused damage to water and sanitation services, thus putting into jeopardy the health of 24 million children. “Violence is crippling health systems in conflict-affected countries and threatens children’s very survival,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, countless children are dying in silence from diseases that could easily be prevented and treated.”
Water and sanitation services have been compromised, causing diseases to spread. Millions of children in the Gaza Strip, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan are lacking nutritious food and lack basic health care. “When children can’t access healthcare or improved nutrition, when they drink contaminated water, when they live surrounded by waste with no sanitation, they become ill and some die as a result. There is very little standing between them and life-threatening illness, especially when humanitarian access is denied.”
For example, the conflict in Syria has rendered almost 6 million children in need as lifesaving supplies are regularly removed from the few humanitarian convoys and many children lack vaccinations. The two-year conflict in Yemen has in turn brought the country on the brink of starvation, causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and rendering almost 10 million children in need. Attacks on hospitals have become a commonplace and the few operational hospitals function with limited staff amidst the looming threat of polio. In Iraq, around 5 million children are at risk and UNICEF estimates that for the past seven months, 85,000 children have been trapped in western Mosul with limited medical access and no humanitarian assistance.