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Bellamy to Baghdad to see Iraqi children

Bellamy to Baghdad to see Iraqi children, thank UNICEF staff

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 16 May 2003 – UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy will visit Iraq this weekend to draw attention to the difficult situation of children. Her three-day stay will encompass activities in Baghdad and the north of the country.

“I want to thank the UNICEF national staff, who stayed at work throughout the war to assist Iraqi children,” Bellamy said Friday, one day prior to her arrival in Iraq.

“But I also want to focus attention on the plight of children in this still very critical time. There’s much more that needs to be done to improve the chances of survival for children and to get this country pointed in the right direction.”

UNICEF remains concerned about the impact of civil disorder and looting throughout the country. In recent days UNICEF has found water stations and supply warehouses depleted of supplies and equipment, making it difficult to restore social services on a consistent basis.

“I hope to meet with all the key players involved in building an Iraq that is fit for children,” Bellamy said. “ We need to focus ourselves on some basics: education, water and health services, and the protection of children.”

Since the end of the war, UNICEF has delivered thousands of tons of supplies. These include emergency medical and water supplies, as well as high-protein food for malnourished children and medicines targeting serious outbreaks of water-borne diseases among children. In the past three weeks UNICEF tankers have supplied more than 20 million litres of water to southern Iraq, repaired water treatment plants, and supplied millions of dollars worth of water treatment chemicals.

But Bellamy said that despite a swift response to the emergency, much remains to be done.

“We are alarmed by the high numbers of children being injured by munitions, and by anecdotal reports of children who are reported to have disappeared. The faster we get coherent education and health systems functioning again, with paid staff, the less children will fall through the cracks.”

She also noted that what she called “a perception of potential violence” was causing as much damage as the widely reported looting. “We know that many women teachers and health workers are not going to work because of reports of abductions that have been difficult to verify. Many parents are withholding their children – especially girls – from school, and those same children are roaming into dangerous areas and being injured by munitions. Those same perceptions can affect humanitarian workers, who have families of their own.”

The UNICEF chief is expected to meet with Iraqi civil servants, UN heads of agencies, and others.

UNICEF has issued a $165 million appeal for the children of Iraq, of which about $75 million, or 45 per cent has been received from donors.

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