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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday launched an appeal of 3.3 billion U.S. dollars to provide emergency assistance in 48 countries around the globe, against the backdrop of ever increasing number of children driven from their homes due to conflict, disasters and climate change.

A total of 48 million children living through some of the world's worst conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies will benefit from UNICEF's 2017 appeal, which was launched on Jan. 31, the UN agency said in a press release.

"From Syria to Yemen and Iraq, from South Sudan to Nigeria, children are under direct attack, their homes, schools and communities in ruins, their hopes and futures hanging in the balance," the press release noted.

"In total, almost one in four of the world's children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster," it added.

The UN agency fears that an estimated 7.5 million children will face severe acute malnutrition across the majority of appeal countries, including almost half a million each in north east Nigeria and Yemen.

The situation is further complicated due to unavailability of accurate information in parts of the Lake Chad basin due to lack of access because of continuing activities of Boko Haram militants.

In Yemen, the worst affected areas include the capital, Sanaa, where 78 percent of children are chronically malnourished. Furthermore, many other areas have also seen growing deprivation, from Hodeida in the west to Taiz and now Aden to the south.

UNICEF's Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency's 2017 appeal and its goals to provide children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in some of the world's worst conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.

"In country after country, war, natural disaster and climate change are driving ever more children from their homes, exposing them to violence, disease and exploitation," said UNICEF director of emergency programmes, Manuel Fontaine.

The largest single component of the appeal, or 1.4 billion U.S. dollars, is for children and families caught up in the conflict in Syria, which will soon enter its seventh year. This also includes Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, such as Jordan where, according to estimates, almost half of all refugee families have a child who is a breadwinner.

With enough funding, UNICEF hopes to reach 81 million people, including 48 million children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection.

UNICEF is particularly concerned about another slow-burning threat -- malnutrition.

"Malnutrition is a silent threat to millions of children," Fontaine said. "The damage it does can be irreversible, robbing children of their mental and physical potential. In its worst form, severe malnutrition can be deadly."

For his part, UNICEF's Yemen representative, Meritzell Relano, said that children in Yemen were locked in a "catastrophic" situation, with at least 10 million in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.

"Children are dying of malnutrition, that is for sure ... under-five mortality rate has increased to the point that we estimate that at least in 2016, 10,000 more children died of preventable diseases," she said.

The UN agency believes that as great as these challenges are, they're not insurmountable.

Thanks to donors, UNICEF saved lives every day in 2016, providing water to 13.6 million people, protection from measles to more than nine million children, education to over six million, and treatment for severe acute malnutrition to 2.2 million, in the first ten months of the year.


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