New York/Tripoli — Joint statement by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, and Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
"An increasing number of children are at imminent risk of injury or death because of the escalation in fighting - the worst in years - in and around Tripoli.
"We remind all warring parties in Libya of their obligations to protect children at all times in full compliance with international law. Killing, injuring and recruiting children, and attacks on education, medical and water facilities are all grave violations of children's rights and must cease immediately. Prevention measures must be put in place to better protect children, in line with Security Council resolution 2427.
"We also urge safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all children in need, and for a ceasefire to allow civilians to safely leave areas under conflict.
"Nearly 1,800 children are among civilians who urgently need evacuation from areas under frontline fighting, while 7,300 children have already been displaced from their homes by the raging violence. Around 500,000 children are estimated to be affected by violence across western Libya.
"Children trapped in conflict areas are at risk of running out of food and losing access to medical care. Unable to leave these areas, they cannot safely seek protection or assistance.
"The violence has also left the nearly 1,000 refugee and migrant children held in detention centres in grave danger. They should be immediately released and provided with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be provided with safe repatriation assistance for reunification with their families. The principle of non-refoulement must be respected. Unaccompanied minors, many of whom are in transit in the country, are at risk of grave violations including recruitment and use, sexual violence or abduction.
"The fighting is also depriving children of their right to education. The academic year has been suspended in all schools in conflict-affected areas, and seven schools are currently sheltering displaced families. A recent attack on an education warehouse destroyed 5 million schoolbooks and national school exam results.
"Libya has suffered through more than seven years of persistent conflict that has left at least 820,000 people, including some 250,000 children, in dire need of humanitarian assistance and the situation is deteriorating yet again. For their sake, and the sake of the country's future, the fighting must stop."