Denial of humanitarian access to children is prohibited under international law

This morning, the UN Security Council convened a briefing on children and armed conflict. Council members focused on the denial of humanitarian access, which is one of the six grave violations against children in times of war identified by the Council. Slovenia is appalled that denial of humanitarian access still exits and is in fact increasing.

UNICEF describes the denial of humanitarian access for children as “intentional deprivation or impediment of humanitarian assistance essential for children’s survival by parties to the conflict, including willfully impeding the ability of humanitarian or other relevant actors to access and assist affected children in situations of armed conflict.” Acts that amount to this violation also include the attacks against aid personnel and convoys, attacks on critical infrastructure, suspension or diversion of aid etc.

“Even in wars, there are rules. Parties to the conflict must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” stressed deputy permanent representative. She added that every party to the conflict must meet the basic needs of the civil population under its control, especially children. The most universally ratified document in this regard, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is very clear on this matter.

Two Sudanese children sitting on the street and looking at the camera
Every child should be safe from the horrors of war / Author: UNICEF/Mohamdeen

Given that the humanitarian response is a lifeline for millions of children, denying humanitarian access to them is cruel and inhumane. Slovenia underscored that “rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian delivery must be guaranteed at all times and by all sides.” As only a stable ceasefire can create conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid at the scale required, deputy permanent representative called on all parties in all the conflicts to cease hostilities.

“The assessment by the humanitarian community that over 220,000 children in Sudan could possibly die of malnutrition is horrifying. Starving children in Gaza are being killed on an unprecedented level. In Yemen, nearly half of children under 5 suffer from stunting. In Afghanistan, girls are denied access to basic services, including education and healthcare, but also humanitarian aid. In Haiti, amidst security and humanitarian crises, seven in ten cases of reported sexual violence include children. In Myanmar, six million children are being left behind by not having access to life-saving aid. In Ukraine, daily targeting of critical civilian infrastructure leaves children without access to food, water, healthcare and education and thus adding to their overwhelming suffering,” emphasized deputy permanent representative.

According to the most recent Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, the UN verified 3,941 instances of the denial of humanitarian access in 2022. Unfortunately, data indicates that the numbers will continue to grow and the blatant disregard for international humanitarian law continues.

Slovenia will continue providing food assistance, long-term psychosocial and health rehabilitation. Every child should be safe from the horrors of war.

Read the full statement here.

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