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Press Release

Statement by Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director, to the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights regarding the situation in the Middle East

Mr Chairperson, distinguished Representatives,

I am presenting this statement on behalf of Carol Bellamy, the UNICEF Executive Director.

"It is in deep distress that UNICEF addresses this Special Session of the Commission. The events in the Middle East during the past weeks have been covered by many delegations; however, it is our duty to highlight the impact the situation has had on children.

UNICEF has worked in the West Bank and Gaza since 1981. Here as elsewhere our work has been guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and our commitment to establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and standards of behaviour towards children. Since 1993, much of our work has focused on building trust and encouraging dialogue among children and adolescents - the new generation now coming to adulthood. We believe in that work. No matter what comes we will make sure it continues. But recent events have made that work far more difficult.

Children are nearly always the most vulnerable and most lasting victims of conflict. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is no exception. As you know, more than 100 people have been killed in this conflict over the last three weeks. More than one-quarter of the dead have been children under the age of 18, including a 13-year-old boy who was killed on Monday. His death brings the number of children killed to at least 28. In addition, more than 1,200 children have been injured, many of them critically. These children represent two-thirds of all those injured.

The crisis also jeopardizes efforts begun in 1993 to build an environment of peace and trust among children. Tremendous efforts will be needed to heal the wounds and restore children's confidence in themselves and in the future.

Mr. Chairperson,

It is up to the adults on all sides of the conflict to take responsibility. It is entirely up to the adults of the region to find a way to keep children and young people out of harm's way.

In this context, UNICEF:

· calls on both parties in the current conflict to protect children from violence;

· calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately ensure that children under 18 years of age are not targeted in the conflict;

· and calls on the Palestinian Authority to take energetic measures to discourage those under 18 years of age from participating in any violent action - because such action places them at risk.

Mr. Chairperson,

Every aspect of this conflict is a tragedy. UNICEF mourns the loss of life and the injuries on all sides. We especially mourn the injuries and loss of life suffered by children and young people under 18. But there are psychological wounds, as well. Fear and panic for the younger children; frustration, anger and loss of trust for the older ones, are the most commonly expressed signs of psychological distress in children.

It is absolutely clear that all the adults of the region bear some responsibility for the terrible consequences of the conflict on children. It is equally clear that to protect children, all the adults of the region must play an active role.

We can only hope that, for the sake of the youngest citizens of the region, the adults who lead their peoples will take responsible action toward an immediate end to hostilities - as agreed yesterday in Sharm El Sheikh - and move forward to a lasting solution to the conflict for this generation of children and ones yet to come."

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

See also Carol Bellamy's October 12 statement

Please email media@unicef.org with comments or for more information