Seven months into the current phase of conflict, the number of children and adolescents who have been killed, disabled or wounded -- or have otherwise suffered from grievous harm -- remains unknown. Many children have lost parents and other loved ones and seen their homes and communities destroyed. Large numbers have been uprooted and forced to spend the bitterly-cold winter in cellars, railroad cars or tents, affecting their health and severely disrupting their education. Privation and suffering have touched virtually every one of the children of Chechnya, whether they have been displaced to other Republics or remained behind. Many will suffer from long-term emotional trauma.
As a result of this conflict, the fundamental human rights of children -- rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely adopted rights treaty in history -- are being violated.
Early in the crisis, UNICEF called on all parties to uphold the rights of children and women and to take all necessary action to avoid harm and loss of life among civilian populations. Today UNICEF reiterates that call and asks that all the parties seek a swift and peaceful resolution to this conflict. We believe it is time for all parties to act on behalf of children.
UNICEF also calls on all parties to ensure the safety of the large numbers of civilians who may want to return to Chechnya in the coming months. Their human rights must be fully and consciously upheld, including their right to free movement and unimpeded access to fundamental social services.
Further, UNICEF calls on the parties to the conflict to spare no effort in restoring normalcy for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been the main victims of this conflict, and to create conditions in which the population may begin to rebuild their lives with dignity and real hope for lasting peace.
In this regard, UNICEF welcomes the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to Chechnya in the coming days. We have communicated to her our concerns regarding the impact of the crisis on children and are very hopeful that her efforts to draw attention to the plight of the affected population will result in renewed actions on their behalf.
As part of the UN emergency operation in the North Caucasus, UNICEF will continue to focus its humanitarian interventions on protection of children, adolescents and women at risk, and on meeting immediate, life sustaining needs of civilian populations affected by the conflict.
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For more information on UNICEF, visit its website at http://www.unicef.org