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UNICEF Condemns Killing of Children in Iraq

UNICEF Condemns Killing of Children in Ongoing Iraq Fighting

NEW YORK -- Responding to the deaths Wednesday of children on a school bus in Basra, UNICEF said it is alarmed by the growing impact of the ongoing fighting on Iraqi children.

"The fighting in Iraq is exacting a heavy toll," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, "and children are paying with their lives."

In many cities across Iraq, children are unable to lead a normal life. "They are not just unable to attend school and get decent health care and clean water, but far too often they are paying the ultimate price," Bellamy said. "The ongoing instability and fighting is hitting children the hardest."

The killings in Basra follow the reported deaths of more than 100 children in Fallujah in recent days.

Many schools are closed due to the recent upsurge in violence. Even where schools are open, many parents are keeping their children at home out of fear.

"Children have the right to continue their education, and to do so safely, even when they live in the midst of conflict," Bellamy said. "They must feel free to exercise that right, and they must feel safe going to and from school. In fact, everywhere children spend time, whether on a bus, in a health center, at a school, or on a playground, must be treated as a zone of peace."

"We must not allow children to become the victims of adults battles," she said.

In response to requests from the Ministry of Health, the Red Crescent Society and direct appeals from local hospitals, UNICEF has mobilized emergency health supplies, emergency water supplies and fuel supplies for generators. UNICEF said it was having difficulty delivering these life-saving supplies in the most critically affected communities because of blocked roads.

"We must remind all parties that the protection of children and all civilians during conflict is required under International Humanitarian Law," said Bellamy. "Access for humanitarian aid must be granted via protected corridors, and the integrity and safety of humanitarian workers must be respected."

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