The Smallest Coffins: UN Official Decries 'War on Children'

  (Photo credit: Darkness via Unsplash)

(Photo credit: Darkness via Unsplash)

In January alone 83 children died gruesome deaths linked to conflicts from Libya to Syria, according to the United Nations. Some were playing too close to unexploded ordnance; another walked into a booby-trapped home.

"It is simply unacceptable that children continue being killed and injured every single day," reads a statement from Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "These children have paid the highest price for wars that they have absolutely no responsibility for. They are children -- children! Their lives have been cut short, their families forever broken in grief."

Cappelaere said most of the children died when they were caught in the fighting in Syria, but others were killed in Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Libya. It was in Mosul, Iraq that a child walked into a booby-trapped house. In Benghazi, Libya three died while playing when ordnance left behind from one fight or another suddenly exploded.

In Lebanon, four child refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict froze to death in a "harsh winter storm."

For those who have survived, Cappelaere said, "Not hundreds, not thousands but millions more children in the Middle East and North Africa region have their childhood stolen, maimed for life, traumatized, arrested and detained, exploited, prevented from going to school and from getting the most essential health services; denied even the basic right to play."

"We collectively continue failing to stop the war on children," he said.

UNICEF has requested $3.6 billion in funds "to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to children in 2018," the group said. Over half of the overall request, the largest ever, would provide services for an estimated 27 million children in the Middle East and North Africa alone.

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