Madam President,

Thank you for organising this briefing. I would also like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms Gamba, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr Chaiban, and the representative of civil society, Ms Atim Niger-Thomas, for their presentations and for the crucial work of their organisations.   

Recently, one of Mr Chaiban's colleagues described the serious consequences of restricted humanitarian access, which she had witnessed in Khartoum [and I quote]: " We met one young mother at a hospital whose three-month-old little child was extremely sick (...) The numbers of acutely malnourished children are rising, and the lean season hasn’t even begun.".

In Sudan, as everywhere else where humanitarian access is restricted, the first to suffer are the children. Although it is their right, many of them have no access to sufficient food, healthcare or education. The consequences are disastrous: children suffering from acute malnutrition have a high risk of mortality or illness. Long-term malnutrition also affects cognitive development.

In recent years, verified cases of denial of humanitarian access have risen sharply. I say "verified" because this is one of the six grave violations against children monitored by the monitoring and reporting mechanism mandated by this Council. This denial can take many forms: attacks and violence against humanitarian personnel, obstruction of the delivery of aid, or bureaucratic obstacles. Attacks on humanitarian workers such as those on the World Central Kitchen convoy are unacceptable. We expect the investigation to shed full light on this attack and for measures to be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. It should be remembered that all parties to an armed conflict have an obligation under international humanitarian law to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.

As we speak, thousands of children around the world are suffering the consequences of restrictions on humanitarian access. In the Gaza Strip, children are dying from acute malnutrition. Sudan is also being pushed towards famine. In both Gaza and Sudan, we call on the parties to implement the resolutions of this Council calling for an immediate ceasefire. Aid deliveries and other humanitarian services must be ensured without further delay - through all possible crossing points and routes. In Yemen and Afghanistan, discrimination against women aid workers is affecting the provision of services. In Myanmar, where a third of the population is in need of humanitarian support, access to humanitarian aid is also very limited. In Haiti, the breakdown of law and order is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the population. Finally, the lack of humanitarian access to the Ukrainian territories under Russian military control remains a major concern.

What can be done about this sad list, which is not even exhaustive? Firstly, all parties must respect international law, in particular international humanitarian law and human rights in all circumstances. This includes: the rules relating to the conduct of hostilities, including the obligation to protect the civilian population, including humanitarian personnel who contribute to the protection of children in armed conflict; the prohibition on the use of starvation as a method of warfare; the obligation to protect objects indispensable to the survival of the population; and the obligation to authorise and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid. We also recall that the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the rights to life, to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to education. Secondly, given the extent of humanitarian needs, we must ensure sufficient and predictable funding for such aid, which must include protection services. Thirdly, Resolution 2664 on humanitarian exemptions in all UN sanctions regimes must be fully implemented, thus helping to ensure the flow of funds for humanitarian action as well as humanitarian access in highly complex contexts. And fourth, we must break the cycles of violence and suffering by finding political solutions to conflicts - including within this Council.

Madam President,

"Every war is a war against children". It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of all children are protected. It is also essential that those providing humanitarian aid and protection are able to do so without putting themselves at risk. Indeed, these people are increasingly exposed to violence, which is why Switzerland is working on a draft resolution on the protection of humanitarian and UN personnel.

Finally, let us not forget that humanitarian aid and protection not only save lives, but also show children that the world has not forgotten them.

Thank you.

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