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UNICEF ‘deeply troubled’ over deteriorating conditions for Iraqi children

Loss of water in Basra is major concern; more focus on civilians needed


• Read daily UN briefings, and more on the children of Iraq at UNICEF's online Iraq Press Room

• UNICEF's professional photos are available to qualified publications. Write photo@unicef.org

UNICEF has video footage from inside Iraq, topics include health, nutrition, education, and access to water and relief supplies being packed at UNICEF's global warehouse . For a Beta copy of the b-roll, along with shot descriptions.

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 25 March 2003 – UNICEF today expressed renewed concern for children caught up in the war in Iraq and urged parties to the conflict to ensure civilians are being adequately protected both from battle and from the serious health risks brought about by damage to basic services.

“UNICEF is deeply troubled by the deteriorating conditions for children in the areas most impacted by military operations,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “The last few days have raised real concern for the welfare of civilians caught in the conflict, especially children.”

UNICEF said the situation in the southern city of Basra – the second largest city in Iraq – is of particular concern. UNICEF is working to get vital water tankers into Basra to improve the situation for the city's children. “Electricity has been knocked out, interrupting the water supply, and that puts people at risk of diseasefrom unsafe water,” Bellamy warned.

Bellamy emphasized that this is exactly the kind of scenario UNICEF had warned of prior to the war. In Baghdad, UNICEF staff continue to work to overhaul and maintain city water facilities. Immediately prior to the conflict, UNICEF made sure that backup generators were working at 73 facilities so that water would still be available even if electricity were lost.

More Focus on Civilians

The UNICEF chief urged the parties to the conflict to put more focus on the humanitarian impact of the war.

“We’re very concerned about reports of deaths and injuries among children and women,” Bellamy said. “Such losses are tragic, and they are unacceptable. But the truth is the world does not have a very clear picture of the humanitarian impact of the fighting. There is a disturbing lack of focus on the civilian population.”

Bellamy once again urged the parties to abide by their humanitarian obligations under international law. “I urge the parties to this conflict to make the safety of children a priority,” she said. “I urge them to do all in their power to protect children’s lives, their health, and their general well-being.”

UNICEF has more than 200 staff still at work inside Iraq supporting efforts to ensure that Iraqi children are immunized, well-nourished, and have access to safe water and decent sanitation.

To support UNICEF, visit www.unicef.org

* * *

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, foundations, businesses, and governments. To date UNICEF has spent more than $10 million on emergency supplies for Iraq’s children, and estimates it will need tens of million more in the months ahead. Contributions to UNICEF's ongoing support for Iraq children can be made at: http://www.supportunicef.org/forms/whichcountry_iraq.html

For further information please contact us:.

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq: gkeele@unicef.org
(962-6) 551-5921 ext. 126,
Cell +962-79) 692-6191
Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: asalem@unicef.org
(+962-6) 553-9977 ext. 407
(Cell + 962 79 557 9991
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva: wbelmonte@unicef.org,
(+41-79) 909-5509
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York, aironside@unicef.org
(+1-212) 326-7261

For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF NewsDesk in Amman:

(962-79) 50422058