Marking anniversary, UNICEF mourns loss of colleagues in bombing.
NEW YORK/GENEVA/AMMAN, 18 August 2004 – One year after the tragic loss of UN staff, including a UNICEF staff member, in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad UNICEF today said it was committed to carrying out its humanitarian mission in Iraq.
The UNICEF staff member, Mr. Christopher Klein-Beekman, 31, was killed when a blast tore through the main UN facility in Baghdad. Mr. Klein-Beekman, a national of Canada, was Officer in Charge of the UNICEF office at the time of his death.
“Chris’ energy, drive and commitment to Iraqi children will never be forgotten” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “Events since this tragedy have only reinforced our sense of determination to meet the needs of Iraq’s children – now more than ever.”
Almost half of Iraq’s population is under 18. Even before the conflict began, many children were highly vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and exploitation. And Iraq had one of the world’s worst child mortality rates, with 1 in 8 Iraqi children dying before their fifth birthday.
The security situation is exacerbating the already difficult situation for children in Iraq. Since the conflict began, hundreds of children have been killed and thousands injured. Schools are sometimes closed and many parents keep their children at home out of fear that their children would be hurt or kidnapped on their way to school.
Yet despite fears of violence and kidnappings, many children still make the journey to school, with parents or other family members escorting them to try to ensure their safety. In Fallujah, when schools were bombed, arrangements were quickly made so that children could take their exams at other schools.
But violence in Iraq is a daily reality – throughout the country. Last April, more than one hundred children were reported killed in Fallujah and Basra as a result of fighting – some on their way to school. Children are often killed or maimed by landmines and unexploded ordnance as they are “attracted” by the sometimes colourful and curious designs.
“The children of Iraq have suffered enough,” said Bellamy. “They have gone through three wars, twelve years of sanctions and live in extraordinarily difficult circumstances – often living in fear of violence.”
Despite the security constraints, UNICEF national staff is working tirelessly to help meet the needs of Iraq’s children. Working with Iraqi authorities UNICEF has immunized thousands of children, provided school kits for primary schools, repaired water and sewage plants, delivered tankered water to Iraqi communities, provided essential supplies to community-based recreational centres for children and distributed mine-risk education leaflets to residents of Fallujah to warn them of the dangers posed by unexploded ordnance.
Key donors to UNICEF’s country programme in Iraq include Japan, USAID, the European Union, the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, and Norway.
UNICEF has had a permanent presence in Iraq since 1983. UNICEF has been working to improve the lives of children and women in Iraq since 1952.
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For further information, please contact:
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, NY, 1 212 326 7269
Marc Vergara, UNICEF Media, Geneva, 41 22 909 5718
Sara Cameron, UNICEF Media, Amman, 962 79 650 5006
Anis Salem, UNICEF Media, Amman, 962 6 550 2407