Geneva, March 19, 2017: The U.N. children’s fund finds thousands of refugee and migrant children are more vulnerable to deportation and exploitation today than when the European Union-Turkey agreement to stop mass migration flows from Turkey into Europe was enacted one year ago.
UNICEF acknowledges the EU-Turkey deal succeeded in significantly decreasing the number of refugee and migrant children on the move in Europe. However, it notes a disquieting increase in the threats and distress these children endure.
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UNICEF says the underlying causes that prompted children and their families to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea one year ago remain, as millions of people are still affected by the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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“We observe a very concerning increase of the number of children kept under detention because of their migration status,” said Lucio Melandri, UNICEF senior emergency manager. “So, we see in many countries a number of children that are simply detained for long periods and they are finally kept under what we define as unacceptable situations.”
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Melandri says children who are locked up in detention or stranded on an island for long periods of time suffer from psychological problems. Rather than remaining trapped in Greece or Italy, he says, many unaccompanied children take matters into their own hands to escape.
They will “try alone to contact criminal organizations, to try to cross borders in the night,” Melandri said. “In many cases, these children who are moving alone are leading them to be eventually identified, put under detention. In many cases, we are observing with concern an increasing trend of migrants but, particularly, even children that are simply pushed back.”
Under the EU-Turkey agreement, 120,000 refugees were supposed to have been relocated from Greece and Italy into other European Union member states. To date, UNICEF reports, just over 14,400 children and their families have found new homes, mainly in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Melandri says the EU should live up to its promises by protecting refugee and migrant children and not leaving them in substandard conditions and emotional distress. (VOA)
The United Nations’ Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, reports an unprecedented number of children in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are being infected with Ebola and many are dying from this deadly disease.
Children account for more than 700 of the 2,671 reported cases of Ebola. UNICEF health specialist Jerome Pfaffman says more than half of the youngsters infected with this deadly disease are below the age of five.
Pfaffman, who has just completed his third tour of duty in northeast Congo, calls this number unprecedented. He says it is proportionally higher than the number of children who were infected in the 2014 West African outbreak, which affected about 28,000 people, killing more than 11,000.
“When I left there were 12 new confirmed cases,” he said. “Five were alive and will have the chance to access treatment, but seven had died in the community. This is bad. Having this number of community deaths means we are not ahead of the epidemic.”
Pfaffman says people living in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces are facing both a public health emergency and a humanitarian crisis, making it particularly difficult to bring this complex outbreak under control.
He says building community trust is crucial for this effort. He says treating children for illnesses other than Ebola is critical. He tells VOA when a child falls ill, the mother doesn’t know whether the child has malaria, measles or Ebola.
“You need to be able to take care of that child, whatever disease it is,” he said. “… By doing that kind of program, we will be able then both to treat that child for whatever disease he or she has. And, also identify quickly the Ebola cases, and refer them and control the outbreak.”
Pfaffman warns it will not be possible to bring this epidemic to an end without greater international support and more resources. He says UNICEF will have to more than triple its budget to respond to this complex crisis, requiring about $170 million over the next six months. Main activities include epidemic control, helping communities strengthen their response to the disease in at-risk areas, and delivering essential services. (VOA)