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UN: Global increase in blocked aid threatens children's lives

 A UN Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict is held at the UN headquarters in New York, on April 3, 2024. [Xinhua]

The United Nations raised alarms Wednesday over the alarming global uptick in incidents where humanitarian aid for children is being obstructed, warning of dire consequences for the most vulnerable.

During a briefing of the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, the secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict, brought to light the increasing urgency of addressing the consequences of the denial of humanitarian access for children.

"In 2022, the highest figures of denied access were verified in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Mali," Gamba said, underscoring a trend that appears to be worsening globally due to the adoption of restrictive laws, administrative decrees, and increased control over humanitarian efforts.

She emphasized that all parties involved in conflicts must be held accountable for preventing children from receiving life-saving assistance, which threatens not only their immediate survival but also their long-term growth and development.

The denial of humanitarian access encompasses a range of violations, including restrictions on humanitarian movements, interference with operations, direct attacks on civilian infrastructure, and violence against humanitarian personnel, said Gamba.

"Incidents of this violation are not limited to rural and urban battlegrounds, but also occur in insecure internally displaced persons camps and in cases where children are deprived of liberty," Gamba elaborated, highlighting the far-reaching implications of such actions.

Gamba called on all parties to conflict to "allow and facilitate safe, timely, and unimpeded humanitarian access," stressing the obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to facilitate humanitarian relief to children in need.

In response to the pressing need for improved monitoring and reporting of this grave violation, Gamba announced that her office, in collaboration with the UN Children's Fund, the Department of Peace Operations, and other relevant UN agencies, is developing a guidance note.

"This tool will provide our Country Task Forces for Monitoring and Reporting with concrete guidance on the many components and interpretations of the denial of humanitarian access as a grave violation," she explained.

Gamba reminded the Security Council and its subsidiary bodies of the various tools available to ensure compliance with obligations to provide humanitarian access to children.

These tools include the working group's country-specific conclusions and the inclusion of listing criteria related to the obstruction of humanitarian assistance delivery in sanctions regimes.

"The survival, well-being, and development of children are in jeopardy without compliance by parties to conflict to allow safe, full, and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance," Gamba warned.

She urged for a collective effort to understand, monitor, and prevent the denial of humanitarian access to children, emphasizing the critical role of the international community in safeguarding the future of the youngest and most vulnerable members of society.

"We must get on with the job," Gamba concluded, calling for immediate and concerted action to address this escalating humanitarian crisis.

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