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UNICEF Says More Than 29 Million Babies Born In Conflict Zones In 2018


An Afghan refugee woman holds her baby at a United Nations repatriation center on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan.

More than 29 million babies were born last year into conflict-affected areas, including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

A report published on September 20 said the statistics meant that more than one in five babies born last year spent their earliest moments in communities affected by "the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments."

"Every parent should be able to cherish their baby's first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

She said that in many countries, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies.

A UNICEF worker in Afghanistan related the story "of my son, 5-year-old Heraab. [He] finds himself in a community where he is constantly exposed to the sounds of explosions, smell of smoke, accompanied by the regular shrieking of sirens, be it police or ambulance, or the persistent honking of cars and motorbikes rushing the injured to hospital."

"He shudders and wakes up at night if a truck passes by with speed, sometimes shaking the windows of our house, thinking it must be another attack," the worker related.

Afghanistan is embroiled in an 18-year civil war since the 2001 invasion by U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, blamed for launching the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

A UNICEF staffer in war-torn Yemen said that "some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don't sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it's not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper."

"Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families."

Yemen's civil war has killed thousands of civilians and caused shortages of food and medical care that have affected millions in what international experts have called a "humanitarian disaster."

A Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government ousted from power in the capital, Sana'a, by the Iran-backed Shi'ite Huthis in late 2014.

The Huthis, who deny being a puppet of Iran and say they launched a revolution against corruption, hold Sana'a and most of the biggest urban centers of Yemen.

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