Joint statement by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict, Virginia Gamba and UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla Mjid on the protection of children affected by the unfolding situation in the Tigray region, Ethiopia
New York, 8 December 2020 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla Mjid express their deep concern for the safety and protection of children affected by the unfolding situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and urge all parties to do everything possible to better protect children and all civilians, uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access for the provision of much-needed assistance.
UNHCR estimates that 45% of refugees fleeing to safety and crossing borders are children, including many unaccompanied and separated children. Their protection and the provision of emergency aid to them must be a priority for all actors involved in the response, in particular Government agencies. The Special Representatives welcome the agreement reached between the UN and the Federal Government of Ethiopia to facilitate access to humanitarian organizations to aid civilians affected by the ongoing situation. “I call upon all parties involved to grant all children immediate and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance,” said the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. She further reminded all parties of their respective obligations under relevant international law instruments, especially as they relate to the prevention of violations of children’s rights.
The Special Representatives urge all actors to ensure that children affected by the conflict in the Tigray region are protected from all forms of violence and abuse, such as sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking, recruitment and use by parties to conflict, ensure that children detained for national security reasons are treated primary as victims and according to juvenile justice standards. “I call on all parties to provide children with all the necessary support, including identification of unaccompanied and separated children, family tracing and reunification, family-based alternative care arrangements where necessary, as well as, access to education and health services, including mental health and psychosocial support”, stressed the Special Representative on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid. “Children should be given the opportunity to live the peaceful childhood they deserve,” she added.
The Special Representatives welcome the initiative of the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, to facilitate peaceful solutions, and encourage the Chairperson to take additional steps to ensure the protection of children in the framework of his mediation efforts.