Afghanistan + 16 more

Away from the Iraqi spotlight, millions of children are in peril

UNICEF says funding has withered away - "A Real Crisis"
GENEVA, 18 March 2003 - With the potential of conflict in Iraq just days away, UNICEF said today that months of tension and debate over Iraq has eaten into donor support for millions of children struggling to survive in other crisis situations around the world.

Of the $501 million UNICEF had requested for emergency relief programs in more than 30 countries and territories for 2003, less than 14 per cent had been received by the end of February. Last year at the same time, more than 30 percent of the UNICEF appeal had already been met.

Twelve of the countries in the 2003 appeal have received no funding at all, including Colombia, the Central African Republic, and Rwanda. Even major international emergencies in places such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire, North Korea and Afghanistan are severely under-funded, leaving millions of children in jeopardy.

"The Iraq crisis has virtually blocked out every other emergency in the world," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Donors have been reluctant to commit resources to other major humanitarian emergencies because they're uncertain how much they might be asked to do for Iraq. That's understandable, but it's a real crisis for children in need in other countries."

Bellamy said children are always the most vulnerable in times of emergency, emphasizing that the lack of donor support for non-Iraq emergencies - if it continues - could jeopardize the health, nutrition and development of millions of children.

"We need to invest in these children, not ignore them," Bellamy said. "Outside help is vital not only to keep children healthy and growing, but to plant the seeds of hope in their communities. If the world needs anything these days, it's hope."

UNICEF highlighted the difficult circumstances facing children and women in several large emergencies around the world.

  • Ethiopia and Eritrea: In Eritrea, nearly two-thirds of the population is now in urgent need of assistance. The World Food Programme estimates that food stocks will last only through April. In Ethiopia, more than 11-million people need help now, another 3-million people could be at risk in the coming months. UNICEF estimates the humanitarian emergencies in Eritrea and Ethiopia have put as many as three million children under five at risk.

  • DPRK: UNICEF has received less than $500,000 of the $12 million it needs this year to buy medicine, therapeutic milk and other supplies for some 15 million vulnerable children and women in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. A shortfall of 250,000 tonnes of food is likely by mid-year. Health clinics have stocks of essential children's medicines through April.

  • Cote d'Ivoire sub-regional crisis: The appeal has received 31 per cent of the $5.3 million target. Over 1 million people, 80 per cent of whom are women and children, have been displaced by fighting between government and rebel troops. At least 150,000 people have fled to neighboring countries; another half million are expected to flee Cote d'Ivoire by the end of the year.

  • Southern Africa is the scene of a complex humanitarian crisis exacerbated by catastrophic levels of HIV/AIDS and extended drought. At least 14 million people, half of whom are children, are vulnerable to famine, outbreaks of disease, spiraling poverty and increased exploitation. Some 4 million children across southern Africa have been orphaned, largely because of AIDS; dramatic declines in school attendance are reported in Zambia and Malawi.

"There's no question Iraq is important right now," Bellamy said. "UNICEF has invested $10 million in preparedness efforts there over the last few months, and we are likely to ask our supporters for far more than that in the months ahead. But we cannot fail the children suffering in these other crisis spots. Children's suffering - and the deadly risks they face

  • are just as real whether they're in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, North Korea, southern Africa or somewhere else. We must not let any of them down."

For further information please contact us:.

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva:,

(+41-79) 909-5509

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York,

(+1-212) 326-7261