The Swiss Government recently announced a substantial contribution of $800,000 dollars to UNICEF’s program in Libya. This significant financial aid is intended to support vulnerable children in the country, through social protection, education, and child-centric protective services.
The UNICEF Representative in Libya, Michele Servadei commended the Swiss government for its generous donation. This is aimed at improving access to comprehensive social protection services, and strengthening child protection systems.
Servadei regards this support as “a crucial step towards creating an inclusive and preventive environment for all children, particularly those most at risk.”
He also noted that over the past few years, Switzerland has been working closely with partners in Libya to meet the needs of children, youth, and vulnerable families.
As well as further highlighting that “this contribution to UNICEF signifies our continued commitment to protect the most vulnerable children, including through education and social protection. These provisions offer a critical safety net for the most fragile segments of the population.”
Last week, UNICEF stated that nearly 289 children are known to have died in the first half of 2023, while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea from Libya and Tunisia, according to AFP.
UNICEF said in a press release the number of deaths is equated to nearly eleven children “dying or disappearing every week, as they search for safety, peace, and better opportunities.”
Verena Knaus, UNICEF’s global lead on migration and displacement, said the true figures were likely to be higher, as “many shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean leave no survivors or go unrecorded.”
“The number of children who have lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe has doubled in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year,” she said, adding “These deaths are absolutely preventable.”
Knaus said that many children were making the journey unaccompanied, over several months to reach the shores of Libya or Tunisia in North Africa, from countries like Guinea, Senegal, The Gambia, Syria, and even Afghanistan.
UNICEF estimates 11,600 children — an average of 428 a week — arrived on the shores of Italy from North Africa since January 2023.
The first three months of the year saw the arrival of around 3,300 children, which is 71% of all children arriving in Europe on the central Mediterranean route. These were recorded as unaccompanied or separated.
The figure is three times higher than in the same period last year.
“In attempts to find safety, reunite with family, and seek more hopeful futures, too many children are boarding boats on the shores of the Mediterranean, only to lose their lives or go missing on the way,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell. She called for creating “safe and legal pathways for children to access asylum, while strengthening efforts to rescue lives at sea.”
“Ultimately, much more must be done to address the root causes that make children risk their lives in the first place,” Russell added.