NEW YORK / DAKAR, 7 June 2003 – UNICEF today expressed concern for children caught up in the escalation of civil war in Liberia and appealed to all warring parties to ensure that civilians, especially children, are protected from harm.
"As heavy fighting forces thousands of civilians to flee the shelter of camps on the outskirts of Monrovia, we are deeply troubled about the plight of Liberian children and the civilian population caught up in the mayhem,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “The last few days have raised real concern for the security and well-being of civilians caught in the fighting, especially children. We appeal to all parties to protect the children from harm."
Liberia, a country with a population of 3.1 million, has been ravaged by conflict for almost fourteen years, which means that children under 14 have no idea what it means to live in peace.
Several hundred thousand Liberians have been repeatedly displaced through the years, losing all their worldly belongings in their constant search for security. The Liberian economy and basic social services have been devastated, while unemployment stands at 85 percent. As a result, nine out of ten Liberians live in absolute poverty (less than $1 per day) and, out of these nine, half live on less than $0.50 per day.
UNICEF said this has translated into high malnutrition rates among children, lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, and poor access to school. Some 81 percent of Liberian children aged
6-12 are not in school and, even for the few in school, only 42 per cent attain minimal levels of learning achievement because they are hungry and distracted.
“Today, Liberian children who have all been affected by the war one way or another are faced once again with a totally chaotic situation,” Bellamy said. “We plead for their safety.”
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For further information, please contact:
Margherita Amodeo, UNICEF Media, Dakar (+221) 545-1612
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (+212) 326 -7261