Geneva Palais briefing note on the situation of children in Tigray

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

15 June 2021
Yeshialem Gebreegziabher, 27, holds her daughter, Kalkidan Yeman, 6 months old, who is suffering from malnutrition at Aby Adi Health center in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on Monday, June 7, 2021.
UNICEF/UN0475514/
Yeshialem Gebreegziabher, 27, holds her daughter, Kalkidan Yeman, 6 months old, who is suffering from malnutrition at Aby Adi Health center in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on Monday, June 7, 2021.

GENEVA, 15 June 2021 - "I would like to start by reading three paragraphs from a statement just out from UNICEF’s executive director:

“At least 33,000 children in inaccessible parts of Tigray, Ethiopia, are severely malnourished and face imminent death without immediate help. 

“In the last month alone, we have seen a four-fold increase in weekly admissions of children for treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

“Making matters worse, the malnutrition crisis in the region has coincided with extensive damage to essential systems and services on which children depend for their survival. Mobile health and nutrition teams have been attacked and harassed. Health facilities have been looted or damaged and essential vaccination capacity has ground to a halt. Many health workers have not returned to work. Destruction of water infrastructure has caused an extreme scarcity of safe drinking water.”

"That is all attributable to UNICEF’s executive director.

"To quickly add to this briefing: This is a man-made catastrophe. And incredulously, things can deteriorate further for children, as food insecurity is expected to worsen over the coming months. We risk many more deaths if crops cannot be planted. 

"It is of course imperative that parties to the conflict ensure that humanitarian actors, including UNICEF, have unimpeded and safe access on the ground to stave off widespread famine and to reach those in need.

"Mobile health and nutrition teams – who have had their lives threatened as they do their frontline work - require access to the 21 hard-to-reach districts to serve children, and we must be able to safely carry out the upcoming measles, polio, vitamin A and nutrition campaign across all areas of the Tigray region.

"And of course the region’s children and their families need an immediate cessation of hostilities so that they can safely obtain lifesaving services and begin to rebuild their lives.

"Beyond the politics, funding for an adequate response remains inadequate. Overall, UNICEF requires US$47m to reach 1.3m children up to September … there is a US$13m shortfall, which of course equates to children’s lives. The largest gaps are in the water and child protection response."

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James Elder
UNICEF Geneva
Tel: +254 71558 1222

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