REFILE-INTERVIEW-Syria attack moves Nobel winner to speak out on children in war zones

Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:00pm GMT

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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, April 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations must prioritise millions of children caught up in conflict and protect refugee children from being trafficked into slavery, Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Friday.

Satyarthi, who was jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, said television images of Syrian children gasping for breath after a chemical attack on April 4 had prompted him to speak out.

"I was always concerned - and have spoken about the refugee crisis, and in particular, children living in conflict areas like Syria," Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"But the recent chemical attack has shaken my conscience. What else could be more heinous? I thought it was important to raise a voice - and also suggest some form of action to better protect children in armed conflict and child refugees."

Nearly 250 million children - one in nine worldwide - live in countries affected by war including Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Nigeria, according to the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.

Many lack access to medical care, schooling and nutrition. Those fleeing are at risk of being trafficked and sold into forced labour in farms, homes, hotels and even brothels. Some refugee girls are married off by parents who think a husband will be better able to protect their daughter.

The number of conflicts lasting more than five years is growing, says UNICEF. Fifteen new conflicts have broken out or reignited in the past five years - with a devastating impact on children.   Continued...

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