August 17, 2006
Freda Guttman IMEMC & Agencies
UNICEF has begun a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers unexploded devices pose to children after the war in Lebanon. Children are particularly at risk from the aftermath of bombardments in Gaza as well, the UN children’s fund said.
Michael Bociurkiw, a UNICEF spokesperson who has spent the past three years in Gaza, said that the agency feared that the attention given to Gaza’s northern neighbor might take attention away from the no less urgent needs of Gazan children. Israeli air strikes and incursions occur daily in the Strip.
In July alone, 38 children have been killed.. This has almost been the highest number of children killed since the beginning of the Intifada. The death toll among children has risen since April as a result of an increase in air attacks, assassinations and invasions of refugee camps on the part of the Israel Army.
The Save the Children Alliance, in a statement released in London, on Tuesday, expressed its deep concern about the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza which is putting thousands of children at risk of serious injury, distress, malnutrition, and economic insecurity.
It also stressed the issues raised by UNICEF – the urgency of the situation in Gaza and its concern that while most international attention is focused on the ceasefire and reconstruction in Lebanon, very little is seen by the world in the media about what is happening in Gaza. The children of Gaza continue to face uncertainty, danger and a near collapse of the services that families rely on.
“Approximately 3400 Palestinians have sought shelter in temporary facilities across Gaza, including some schools, as a result of the military incursions. In Al Shoka, one of the most heavily impacted areas, many of the residents have been temporarily displaced numerous times since the incursions began on June 28,” Save the Children said. It added that some of these families remain in temporary shelters and are unable to return to their homes because they are destroyed..
It urged the international community to recognize the need to protect civilians, especially children, and to guarantee access by humanitarian agencies to the children and families affected by the current humanitarian crisis.
UNICEF has begun a campaign in Lebanon to inform the families returning to their homes of the dangers of unexploded ordnance. It is mounting an advertising campaign to warn parents to keep their children away from shiny, strange objects in the rubble.
UNICEF spokesperson, Wivina Belmonte, said on Wednesday: “We are starting to do TV and radio spots as of today, handing out leaflets to people who are crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon going back into areas that have been bombed and shelled, where there are pieces of debris that are still of great danger to people”.
A similar campaign by UNICEF is under way in Gaza. “We feel that kids have been living in an extraordinary environment of fear and violence and insecurity”. Michael Bociurkiw said.
“Kids are typically exposed to violence, for example shelling, gunfire and unexploded ordnance, when they go to and from school. Many times schools are also hit during the school year.”
He said the agency was very concerned as well about “invisible injuries” – the trauma inflicted on children – and is counseling them, their parents and other care givers.
The death of a child in south Lebanon on Monday underscored the danger of unexploded ordnance – the shells, bombs and land mines that failed to go off during the combat, but which can easily be triggered by a slight movement.