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Haiti: New grant to help UNICEF strengthen efforts to tackle cholera

CARIBBEAN, 22 February 2017 – A new grant from the Government of Japan will allow the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help reduce cholera-related morbidity and mortality in Haiti in 2017 and 2018, the UN agency said in a news release.

“With this gift from the Japanese people, we will strengthen the axes of the fight against cholera in the protection of the Haitian population, especially children,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, welcoming the contribution.

“Japan is a key partner and we thank the Japanese people for their continued support,” he added.

Haiti has been dealing with a cholera outbreak since October 2010, some nine months after it suffered a devastating earthquake. The outbreak has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,000. Concerted national and international efforts, backed by the United Nations, have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases.

The $2.6 million grant (nearly 300 million Japanese yen) will help strengthen the island nation’s epidemiological coordination and surveillance; and support conducting timely surveys, rapid response teams and case management, as well as improving and increasing awareness of cholera-related hygiene.

According to UNICEF, the cholera epidemic in Haiti continues to be the largest in the western hemisphere. More than 41,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported throughout Haiti in 2016.

With the new funds, interventions will be implemented across the island nation with an emphasis on the cholera-prone departments of Center, North, West, Grand'Anse, Sud (South), and Artibonite.

Two of these departments – Grand'Anse and Sud – were where Hurricane Matthew made landfall in early October, inflicting much devastation as it cut a path of destruction though country.

In the news release, the Ambassador of Japan to Haiti, Yoshiaki Hatta, said that the grant had been decided upon a resurgence in suspected cholera cases resulting from the deterioration of the sanitary and hygiene situation caused by rainy seasons or natural disasters.

Japan considers that this issue should be addressed in collaboration with the Government of Haiti and the international community, the Ambassador added, expressing appreciation for UNICEF, and calling on all stakeholders to strengthen their collaboration in the fight against cholera.

Meanwhile, a Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) for the UN Haiti Cholera Response has been set up to enable Member States, other partners and individuals (including UN staff) to contribute. To date, it has received funds from five Member States: Chile ($250,000); France ($638,000); India ($100,000); Republic of Korea ($1 million); and Liechtenstein ($50,000).

As for other resources provided outside of the Trust Fund, Canada has made a $4,600,000 parallel contribution in support of the UN Haiti Cholera Response – with some of the funds going to UNICEF & PAHO.

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Nigeria seeks $1 billion to provide life-saving aid to millions in country's northeast – UN

INTERNATIONAL, 22 February 2017 – As relief organizations increase response to the humanitarian emergency in the north-east of Nigeria, timely donor support amounting to a little over $1 billion is required to sustain life-saving assistance to millions people devastated by Boko Haram-linked violence, the United Nations relief aid wing has said.

“If the resources do not arrive in time, one in five children suffering sever acute malnutrition could die,” said Peter Lundberg, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria in a press release issued yesterday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“The likelihood of a child with severe acute malnutrition surviving is nine times less than a properly nourished child,” he added.

According to OCHA, the eight-year-long conflict has left some 8.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the worst-affected states of Nigeria's north-east. In the coming months, around 5.1 million people will face severe food insecurity in the region, where some 1.8 million people have been displaced and millions are exposed to violence and abuse.

“Food assistance alone will cost $1 million a day to avoid famine in a region where 450,000 children under five will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year,” said Mr. Lundberg. “Sustained and timely financial support is needed to maintain the scale-up in operations desperately needed in the north-east of Nigeria.”

During a recent visit by representatives of 12 donor countries and agencies to Borno state, in the run up to the 24 February Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and Lake Chad region, they lauded the scale-up of humanitarian operations in the north-east and emphasized the need for more funding, a stance the humanitarian community in Nigeria concurs with.

“We are grateful to our donors who have enabled us scale up the response and appreciate their continued commitment. We look forward to receiving the needed resources to implement the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria,” Mr. Lundberg said.

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Trial of Gaddafi regime a 'missed opportunity for justice,' says new UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – Pointing out that the recent trial in Libya of members of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime fell short of international fair-trial standards, the United Nations human rights wing and the UN mission in the North African country called on authorities to address flaws identified in a new report.

In the report issued today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) also recognized the challenge of trying former members of the regime, especially amid armed conflict and political polarization, but noted that the trial raised concerns such as serious violations of due process, including prolonged periods of incommunicado detention for the defendants amid allegations of torture which were not properly investigated.

“Holding perpetrators responsible for violations is vitally important but accountability should be the result of due process and a fair trial,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release detailing the report's findings on the trial proceedings that examined violations of human rights during the 2011 civil uprising that toppled the long-time Libyan leader's regime.

“This trial was a missed opportunity for justice and for the Libyan people to have the chance to confront and reflect on the conduct of the former regime.”

Of the 37 members of the former regime under trial – including Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi – six defendants were sentenced to death; eight given life sentences; 15 others jail terms of five to 12 years; four were acquitted on all charges; and one was referred to a mental health institution.

UNSMIL and OHCHR closely monitored the case from the pre-trial phase through the court proceedings, which began in March 2014, to the verdict in July 2015. They also interviewed many of the defendants and their relatives and lawyers, reviewed the case dossier and judgement, and had extensive discussions with Libyan officials and Libyan and international experts.

They noted that the public prosecutor's office, in particular, provided documentation and was available for discussion of the trial throughout the process. However, they also said that the defendants' lawyers complained repeatedly of difficulties in meeting defendants in private and accessing documentation.

“The right to defence was also undermined by the fact that no prosecution witnesses were called to testify in court – the prosecution's case was only briefly presented during the court sessions – and the court restricted each defendant to two witnesses,” noted the news release.

In addition, the Libyan judicial system does not allow for a full appeal but only cassation – a review focused on points of law only.

“[We urge] the Court of Cassation to take into full account the due process violations identified in the report and provide effective remedies, pending the adoption of reforms needed to bring Libyan trials into full compliance with international standards,” the two UN entities noted.

Among other specific recommendations, the report also called for a review of the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure all crimes are clearly defined, access to lawyers during interrogation is guaranteed and other fair trial safeguards are strengthened.

The report also said the Libyan authorities should also ensure the surrender of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC), in compliance with Libya's international obligations.

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At Security Council, UN chief Guterres highlights global significance of a peaceful Europe

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – Noting that recent crises in Europe show that the continent remains at risk from new outbreaks of conflict, United Nations Secretary-General called for reinforcing mutual trust and respect to strengthen stability and cooperation both within Europe and beyond.

The Security Council meeting at which the UN chief delivered this message started with a moment of silence in memory of the Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who passed away yesterday.

“I think [the Ambassador's] passing represents a deep loss for all of us in the UN, including in this Council, where his distinctive voice was ever-present for the past decade, and where, I think, we will all miss that voice in the sessions to come,” said Mr. Guterres in his tribute.

Turning to the subject at hand, the Secretary-General, who briefed the Council alongside Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Helga Schmid, Secretary-General, European External Action Service of the European Union (EU), said crises in Europe could also adversely impact economic progress and sustainable development.

“Conflict in Europe is not only a tragedy for those directly involved: those killed, injured, displaced, who have lost loved ones, who may be unable to access healthcare and are missing vital years of their education,” Mr. Guterres said, adding: “It is also reversing development gains and preventing communities and societies from achieving their full potential and contributing to regional and global prosperity.”

Noting that no single factor is responsible for the emergence and continuation of conflicts, he said that in many cases, peace agreements were “simply not being implemented.”

Other factors included challenges to democratic governance and the rule of law, and the manipulation of ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions for personal or political gain.

“Whatever the causes may be, the inability of regional and international institutions, including our own, to prevent and resolve conflicts is seriously undermining their credibility and making it more difficult for them to succeed in future,” added the UN chief.

Speaking specifically on the conflict in Ukraine, Mr. Guterres said the UN remains committed to supporting a peaceful resolution, in a manner that fully upholds the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, and in accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

He also noted that the UN fully supported the efforts within the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and that it has repeatedly called for the full implementation by all sides of all of their commitments under the Minsk Process, both in letter and in spirit.

“I urge all stakeholders to avoid unilateral steps or attempts to create facts on the ground, which further complicate and endanger efforts to find negotiated settlements. This is especially relevant in view of the latest actions taken in relation to the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus,” he highlighted, urging all sides to give the highest priority to protecting civilians.

In his remarks, Mr. Guterres also spoke of challenges to peace in other parts of Europe, such as in the Balkans, Cyprus, Georgia, Moldova and South Caucasus, as well as on the long-standing name issue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He also noted new challenges and threats such as the phenomenon of populism, nationalism, xenophobia and violent extremism were both causes and effects of conflict.

“I encourage Member States, this Council, regional mechanisms and all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to define a peace and security agenda to address today's complex challenges,” urged Secretary-General Guterres.

“The status quo is not sustainable.”

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UN refugee agency focuses on sheltering displaced as Iraqi offensive moves to west Mosul

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – The United Nations refugee agency is focusing efforts on camp construction in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul, where renewed fighting could displace up to 250,000 people.

“With the predicted exodus of up to a quarter of a million people, it will be impossible to accommodate such large numbers on existing land,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

Almost 217,000 people have fled from the eastern sections of Mosul since the military offensive to oust Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorists began on 17 October 2016. About 160,000 remain displaced while others have returned to their homes in the now Government-controlled areas.

The spokesperson said UNHCR has eight camps open or completed at present, and one under construction. “We are planning for the start of work at another site in Hamam Al Alil, south of Mosul,” he said.

The Iraqi Government has decided, initially, to transport people displaced from western Mosul to camps in the east while new capacity is being added in the south.

UNHCR has been asked to support a new site at Hamam Al-Alil, 20 km south of Mosul. It is expected that many of those fleeing western Mosul will reach there on foot. This site will provide shelter for up to 60,000 people.

According to reports and testimonies, conditions in the densely-populated west of the city are worsening, and hence concerns are mounting for the well-being of civilians. There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine. Half of all food shops have closed and most people can only access untreated water.

Food prices are skyrocketing and there are reports of families burning furniture, clothing and plastic to stay warm.

Mr. Saltmarsh said that during the battle for eastern Mosul, the protection of civilians was prioritized in military planning and activities, and UNHCR hopes this principle will continue to be upheld.

However, he added, the new battle will be different as the city's west is densely populated, with many narrow streets, and fighting will be street by street. Armed groups have built a network of tunnels.

Insecurity and recent suicide attacks in eastern Mosul have resulted in some families – who had opted to return to their homes – coming back to the camps in search of safety, he said.

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UN refugee agency focuses on sheltering displaced as Iraqi offensive moves to west Mosul

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – The United Nations refugee agency is focusing efforts on camp construction in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul, where renewed fighting could displace up to 250,000 people.

“With the predicted exodus of up to a quarter of a million people, it will be impossible to accommodate such large numbers on existing land,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

Almost 217,000 people have fled from the eastern sections of Mosul since the military offensive to oust Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorists began on 17 October 2016. About 160,000 remain displaced while others have returned to their homes in the now Government-controlled areas.

The spokesperson said UNHCR has eight camps open or completed at present, and one under construction. “We are planning for the start of work at another site in Hamam Al Alil, south of Mosul,” he said.

The Iraqi Government has decided, initially, to transport people displaced from western Mosul to camps in the east while new capacity is being added in the south.

UNHCR has been asked to support a new site at Hamam Al-Alil, 20 km south of Mosul. It is expected that many of those fleeing western Mosul will reach there on foot. This site will provide shelter for up to 60,000 people.

According to reports and testimonies, conditions in the densely-populated west of the city are worsening, and hence concerns are mounting for the well-being of civilians. There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine. Half of all food shops have closed and most people can only access untreated water.

Food prices are skyrocketing and there are reports of families burning furniture, clothing and plastic to stay warm.

Mr. Saltmarsh said that during the battle for eastern Mosul, the protection of civilians was prioritized in military planning and activities, and UNHCR hopes this principle will continue to be upheld.

However, he added, the new battle will be different as the city's west is densely populated, with many narrow streets, and fighting will be street by street. Armed groups have built a network of tunnels.

Insecurity and recent suicide attacks in eastern Mosul have resulted in some families – who had opted to return to their homes – coming back to the camps in search of safety, he said.

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'Time running out' for 1.4 million children in 'man-made' crises in Africa, Yemen – UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – Almost 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition this year, as famine threatens in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, warned the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), urging prompt action to save them.

“We can still save many lives. The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release issued by the UN agency today.

“Our common humanity demands faster action,” he underscored.

According to UNICEF, as many as 462,000 children in Yemen – where a conflict has been raging for the past two years – are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This figure has risen nearly 200 per cent since 2014.

Similarly, in conflict affected parts of northeast Nigeria, including Adamawa, Borno and Yobi, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition is expected to reach 450,000. According to a famine early warning system, the famine likely occurred in some previously inaccessible areas of Borno, and it is likely ongoing, and will continue, in other areas which remain beyond humanitarian reach.

Furthermore, in Somalia, droughts threaten an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict: almost half the population (6.2 million people) faces acute food insecurity and is in need of urgent relief, 185,000 among them children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. There are fears that the number could rise to 270,000 in the next few months.

In South Sudan, a famine was recently declared in parts of the country, adding to a humanitarian situation already complicated due to poverty and insecurity. Over 270,000 children are severely malnourished in the country and the total number of food insecure people across the country is expected to rise once the lean season sets in.

In its response, UNICEF, working with partners, has been providing therapeutic treatment to 220,000 severely malnourished children in Nigeria, over 200,000 in both South Sudan and Somalia, and 320,000 children in Yemen.

However, more action is urgently needed.

“Time is running out,” said Mr. Lake. “We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa.”

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Yemen's brutal two-year conflict forcing displaced to return home amid persisting risks – UN

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – The complex crisis in Yemen continues to deepen, with United Nations agencies reporting today that perhaps one million people who had fled for safety are returning to their homes mainly due to a lack of access to income and basic services in the areas of displacement, warning that returnees often find the situation “just as abysmal.”

“It's testament to how catastrophic the situation in Yemen has become, that those displaced by the conflict are now returning home because life in the areas to which they had fled for safety is just as abysmal as in the areas from which they fled,” said Ayman Gharaibeh, the Representative for Yemen of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a joint press release issued with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“These returns cannot be viewed as sustainable,” Mr. Gharaibeh added, explaining that people often return to homes that have been damaged and to areas lacking essential services, and are often forced to flee again.

multi-sectoral location assessment report released today, and a periodically updated utm_term=This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.&;utm_content=http%3a%2f%2freliefweb.int%2freport%2fyemen%2fyemen-task-force-population-movement-tfpm-12th-report-executive-summary-january-2017&utm_campaign=" style="color:rgb(0, 136, 204);text-decoration:none;line-height:inherit">population movement tracking report published last month, show that there are currently two million internally displaced people (IDPs) across Yemen and one million IDP returnees.

As conditions across the country further deteriorate, many more IDPs are contemplating a return home, where challenging security and socio-economic conditions persist. About 40 per cent of key informants indicate that IDPs now intend to return home within the next three months. The reports highlight a lack of access to income and basic services in areas of displacement as the main reasons for pushing IDPs to return to the areas of their origin.

All but one Yemen's governorates now affected by devastating conflict

Mr. Gharaibeh noted that all of Yemen's governorates, with the exception of the island of Socotra, have been affected by conflict.

“The overwhelming majority of Yemen's one million IDP returnees have returned to Aden, Amanat Al Asimah, Taizz, Lahj and Shabwah, which have been particularly impacted by hostilities and insecurity,” he explained.

Yemen's local communities are also under intense strain with alarming scarcities of food and insufficient access to water and sanitation services. Some 84 per cent of Yemen's two million IDPs have been displaced for more than a year and scarce resources are increasingly overstretched.

“IOM and all partners must scale up their response to support those newly displaced as well as those whose displacement is becoming increasingly protracted with shifting needs,” said IOM Yemen's Chief of Mission, Laurent De Boeck.

Weapons must fall silent to avert famine

In a separate statement, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, warned against the impact of increased fighting along Yemen's west coast on the food crisis.

“I urgently call on all parties to the conflict and on those that have influence over the parties to facilitate the rapid entry of critical life-saving food staples into all Yemeni ports,” he said, noting that over 17 million people are frequently forced to skip meals and seven million Yeminis do not know where their next meal will come from and are ever closer to starvation.

Moreover, the availability of food in markets and the food pipeline are at imminent risk. Food shortages are widespread, food and fuel prices are rising, there are disruptions to agricultural production, and purchasing power is plummeting, especially brought about by the lack of salary payments in the public sector for over six months.

And given that the country is 80-90 per cent dependent on imported food staples, he said he is “compelled to raise the alarm,” as such factors, if left unabated, could combine to accelerate the onset of famine.

“The best means to prevent famine in Yemen is for weapons to fall silent across the country and for the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table,” he said.

UN agencies support nationwide polio immunization campaign

Meanwhile, a nationwide polio immunization campaign was launched yesterday in Yemen by national health authorities with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), aiming to immunize about five million children under the age of five.

More than 40,000 health workers are taking part in the three-day campaign.

“WHO is working closely with UNICEF and health authorities to keep Yemen polio-free. The threat of virus importation is serious and this campaign aims to curb any possible return of the virus to Yemen,” said WHO Acting Representative in Yemen, Nevio Zagaria.

This is the first polio immunization campaign since April 2016. The security situation in Yemen has limited accessibility of many parts of the country, leaving many children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.

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'Time lost means lives lost,' warns UN aid chief, releasing funds to tackle drought in Ethiopia

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – The top United Nations humanitarian official today released $18.5 million from the organization's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to enable critical aid for more than 785,000 people suffering from hunger, malnutrition and severe water shortages in Ethiopia's Somali region – the worst drought-stricken part of the country.

“I was recently in Ethiopia's Somali region, where I saw the devastating impact this drought is having on people's lives, livestock and livelihoods,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien.

“Time lost means lives lost so I am releasing CERF funding to provide urgent aid to people in need – now – when they need it most.”

According to CERF, the latest allocation will immediately provide affected people with access to water and health, nutritional and agricultural services. The funds will also help pastoral communities, who are most in need, and thousands of whom have been forced to move in search of water and pasture.

This latest drought struck Ethiopia before it could recover from the effects of a devastating El Niño-induced drought in 2015 and 2016 which left millions in urgent need of aid.

However, the grant covers only a small portion of what is required in 2017 to address rising challenges. Furthermore, according to current estimates more than 5.6 million people in the country are in desperate need of basic necessities.

“Humanitarians will use these funds to save lives, but it is a bridge that must be matched and surpassed urgently. Millions of people's lives, livelihoods and wellbeing depend on continued donor support,” noted Mr. O'Brien.

The drought is also one of the worst to hit the Horn of Africa in decades. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the region received only a quarter of the expected rainfall between October and December last year, leaving over 17 million people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda in crisis and emergency food insecurity levels.

CERF also highlighted that as the scale and intensity of emergencies around the world continue to increase, the Fund needs to be strengthened so that aid can reach people, whenever and wherever crises hit.

To this end, In December last year, UN General Assembly endorsed a recommendation by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's to double CERF's annual target to $1 billion by 2018.

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'We cannot give up the fight' to end child recruitment, says UNICEF chief

INTERNATIONAL, 21 February 2017 – Even though over the past 10 years, more than 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups, tens of thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 continue to be used in conflicts around the world, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

“[It] is not only about looking back at what has been accomplished – but looking forward to the work that remains to be done to support the children of war,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake as global leaders gather in the French capital on the anniversary of the Paris commitments to end the use of children in conflict.

Adopted 10 years ago, the Paris commitments, together with the Paris principles and guidelines, lay out guidance for protecting children from recruitment and use by armed forces or armed groups, and assisting their release and reintegration, with other vulnerable children affected by armed conflict in their communities.

According to UNICEF, exact data on the number of children used and recruited in armed conflict is difficult to ascertain because of the unlawful nature of child recruitment. But estimates indicate that tens of thousands under the age of 18 are used in conflicts worldwide.

For instance, since 2013 an estimated 17,000 children have been recruited in South Sudan and up to 10,000 have been recruited in the Central African Republic (CAR). Similarly, nearly 2,000 children were recruited by Boko Haram, in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, last year alone, and there have been nearly 1,500 cases of child recruitment in Yemen since the conflict escalated in March 2015.

There has also been progress: since it was adopted, the number of countries endorsing the Paris commitments has nearly doubled from 58 countries in 2007 to 105 at present, signalling an increasing global commitment to end the use of children in conflict.

Globally, more than 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups, including 20,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo); nearly 9,000 in the Central African Republic; and over 1,600 children in Chad.

But more needs to be done.

Seeking to build on the current momentum, the Paris International Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts is urging for unconditional release of all children – without exception – and putting an end to child recruitment.

It is also calling increased resources to help reintegrate and educate children who have been released, and urgent action to protect internally displaced children, child refugees and migrants.

“As long as children are still affected by the fighting, we cannot give up the fight for the children,” Mr. Lake added.

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