Four schools or hospitals attacked or occupied every day – UNICEF


Four schools or hospitals attacked or occupied every day – UNICEF

On 16 September, Shaima, 10, and a classmate hold hands while standing beside rubble from a destroyed part of Shuje’iyah Girls’ School in Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City. Ten days into the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza, her family moved to her grandfather’s ground-floor apartment, which was thought to be a safer place. “Early morning, the shelling got closer,” Shaima says. “Suddenly a bomb fell nearby. Everyone ran out, except for my father and younger sister. I heard people scream that he was dead.” Her father, Adel, was on the sofa in the living room with her 2-year-old sister, Dima, in his arms, trying to rock her to sleep, when a shell struck the neighbour’s house. Both Adel and Dima were killed by shrapnel that came bursting through the walls. “I saw my uncle carrying my sister,” Shaima recalls. “I realized her head was cut off in the shelling. I didn’t look at my father’s body, because I was afraid his wounds were as bad. I ran away.” Now she is visited regularly by a counsellor from the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), a UNICEF partner that specializes in child trauma. The counsellor sees her at home and helps her talk about her experience. “I was not able to say goodbye to my dad,” Shaima tells the counsellor. “I don’t want to be an orphan; I want my dad to be with me. I only have wonderful memories of him. He used to buy me toys, even if I did not ask for them. I wish I could see him and my sister Dima again. I used to play with her. I liked to dress her and comb her hair.”

In September 2014 in the State of Palestine, children continue to recover from 50 days of intense violence that engulfed the territory during July and August. The conflict – which ended with a ceasefire on August 26 – left 506 children dead and more than 3,000 injured, while destroying an estimated 18,000 houses in Gaza.

© UNICEF/UNI172070/El Baba – Shaima, 10, and a classmate, in front of the destroyed Shuje’iyah Girls’ School in Shuja’iyeh, eastern Gaza City, 2014

UN children’s agency calls for protection of schools and hospitals ahead of World Humanitarian Summit


NEW YORK/HONG KONG, 19 May 2016 – An average of four schools or hospitals are attacked or occupied by armed forces and groups every day – according to UNICEF analysis released ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit.

The findings, drawn from the most recent Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, come in the wake of recent attacks on education and health facilities and workers – including the bombing of schools in Yemen, and a strike on a hospital in Aleppo, Syria on 27 April, that killed at least 50 people, including one of the last paediatricians in the area.

“Children are being killed, wounded, and permanently disabled in the very places where they should be protected and feel safe,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes.

“Attacks against schools and hospitals during conflict are an alarming, and disgraceful, trend. Intentional and direct strikes on these facilities, and on health workers and teachers, can be war crimes.  Governments and other actors need to urgently protect schools and hospitals by upholding the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and states must sign the Safe Schools Declaration.”

Attacks against schools and hospitals are one of the six grave violations against children identified and addressed by the UN Security Council. The last Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict documented more than 1500 incidents of attacks on, or military use of, schools and hospitals in 2014, including:

  • In Afghanistan 163 schools and 38 health facilities were attacked.
  • In Syria, 60 attacks on education facilities were recorded, as well as nine cases of military use of schools and 28 attacks on health facilities.
  • In Yemen, 92 schools were used for military purposes by armed forces and groups.
  • In South Sudan, there were seven incidents of attacks on schools and 60 involving military use.
  • A total of 543 educational facilities were damaged or destroyed in the State of Palestine and three attacks were documented on Israeli schools.
  • According to education authorities in Northeast Nigeria, a total of 338 schools were destroyed and damaged between 2012 and 2014.

Over the past year, the UN monitoring system has also documented so-called ‘double-tap’, or even ‘triple-tap’, strikes on healthcare facilities in which civilians are attacked, as well as the first responders arriving on the scene.

Beyond attacks on buildings, conflict has other far-reaching consequences on children’s education and healthcare. In Syria, for example, as well as attacks on hospitals, the removal of medical kits and surgical supplies from aid convoys, restrictions on medical evacuations, and killing of medical personnel, mean that access to critical and lifesaving healthcare for civilians in affected areas is diminishing day by day.

“Children are being abducted from their schools in horrific circumstances in countries like Nigeria and South Sudan, while others are being raped, or recruited and used as child soldiers,” said Khan.

The very first World Humanitarian Summit will take place in Istanbul on the 23rd and 24th of May. Global leaders will discuss how to effectively respond to major humanitarian emergencies, and how to be better prepared to meet challenges of the future.