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UNICEF Launches Largest Ever Appeal for Children in Crisis

Injured children rest in a field hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Jan. 21, 2015.

The United Nations Children’s Fund is appealing for a record-breaking $3.1 billion to assist 62 million children facing conflict, disease and other humanitarian crises.

The biggest chunk of the money — nearly $1 billion — targets the deepening emergencies in Syria and affected areas nearby. An additional $500 million will be used to scale up efforts to tackle the devastating Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The appeal will provide assistance to 98 million people in 71 countries. Two-thirds of the beneficiaries are children. UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan, said children are more at risk today than ever before from conflict, hunger, disease and abuse.

“One in 10 children around the world, 230 million, currently live in countries and areas that are affected by armed conflicts and children are increasingly targets of war — violently attacked at home, at school, in the street and used as weapons and force to fight in armed groups," he said.

Khan added that conflicts "are no longer isolated to one country, but have spilled over to create crises in neighboring countries as well.”

This can be seen in the Middle East. UNICEF pinpoints the Syrian conflict as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis among the many tearing apart the lives of children and their families. The agency reports 12.2 million people there are in need of humanitarian aid, including 5.6 million children in Syria and in neighboring countries.

While the needs in this area are enormous, Khan said UNICEF is also dealing with many other regional crises.

“We cannot ignore the needs of children in the Central African Republic, which equally has a knock-on effect on places like Chad and other neighboring countries — Nigeria in Cameroon," he said.

"Each of those children should be given an opportunity to have a basic education, basic access to health care, clean water and be protected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ebola continues to take a heavy toll on children. UNICEF reports about 10,000 children in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have lost one or both parents to the outbreak and many are stigmatized and shunned by their communities.

UNICEF Global Ebola Emergency Coordinator, Peter Salama, said it is important that these three countries are not forgotten as Ebola declines over the next few months.

“As we hopefully, successfully eliminate the virus, we have to make sure that these countries and the people in them, particularly the children, benefit in the long-term, because these are some of the most neglected countries on earth," he said.

UNICEF says it will use money from the appeal to scale up efforts to rapidly isolate and treat every case of Ebola, prevent further outbreaks, and continue to promote healthy behaviors to prevent the spread of the disease.